a job candidate cut me out of an interview in favor of my male colleague

A reader writes:

We received a direct job application from a great candidate. Great cover letter. Great experience. She hit all the marks (I feel gender is important here).

I’m a female partner at a small firm for our industry. I replied to her with a note saying, in short, “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview,” bypassing a phone screen. We scheduled this with my male colleague — with the exact same “partner” level title as me — at 8:00 a.m. on a Friday.

She cancelled at 6:10 that same morning. I replied to her that my colleague was traveling the week following, but I suggested she “take the lead” in rescheduling, assuming her initial interest wasn’t sincere.

She replied a few days later saying she would reschedule with him directly (emphasis is mine). I was so blown back I did not reply.

My colleague and I have the same title. Perhaps she thought I was performing an administrative role — in replying to her solicitation, in scheduling — but what candidate wouldn’t take care to notice a person’s job title? She does not know what influence I have in hiring decisions (arguably more, given the staff I need). Am I overreacting to her usurping me?

Update: *This candidate did schedule with my colleague, directly. He offered her 30 minutes (courtesy “no” in his mind — he will not take her application seriously after her late cancellation). I’ve shared my outrage with him — I was the one interested in her, not him particularly — and have no particular interest in teaching someone a lesson (ironically someone whose college years were spent in feminist social action at a prestigious university).

Did I miss the mark in not replying that she was wrong to cut me out?

I think your colleague missed the mark in rescheduling with her on his own without trying to loop you back in!

I don’t think you have any particular obligation to explain the candidate’s mistake to her if you didn’t feel like it. If you wanted to, though, you could have replied back with something like, “I think you’ve mistaken me for a scheduler. I’m the partner who was interested in hiring you.”

But it can be hard to call this kind of sexism out explicitly because — even when you know you’re right from a lifetime of watching it happen — people often have just enough plausible deniability that they can claim you’re wrong, even when you’re not. And that’s a frustration of its own. (See also: The guy who directs all his answers to the male interviewer while ignoring the women in the room. The women who just randomly happen to be the ones asked to get coffee/take notes/order lunch … every time. And on and on.)

The fact that this candidate has a background in feminist social action just speaks to how insidious and unconscious this crap can be.

{ 571 comments… read them below }

  1. Ramona Flowers*

    If this is sexism then it sucks – but is there any chance she misunderstood and thought colleague is travelling + you should take the lead in rescheduling = you meant just with him? I can see how it might inadvertently sound like that?

    1. MC*

      I totally agree. I was hoping others would comment on this letter, because I thought I was missing something. As I read it, if someone told me to “take the lead” scheduling a meeting, I’d probably schedule it directly as well with the person that I was supposed to meet with. Regardless of gender roles, this seems like the OP’s instructions were ambiguous, and it’s hard for me to make the jump to sexism.

      1. Susan*

        Yes, I’d really love to see the OP comment with the exact wording in her e-mails, because I can easily imagine a scenario in which the candidate simply misunderstood. Sometimes we can assume that other people know and understand the context of something when it’s actually ambiguous. Here’s the exchange I’m imagining:

        OP: I’m really impressed with your resume; let’s meet for an interview. Are you available on Friday at 8:00 am?

        Candidate: Yes, Friday at 8:00 works for me.

        OP: Great! I’ve scheduled an interview with you and Bob Smith on Friday at 8:00 in our office at 123 Main Street. [I could see OP using phrasing like this, without explicitly saying “with Bob Smith and me,” thinking that her own presence was implied by the fact that she was the one who initially reached out. The candidate could have interpreted this as the interview being candidate and Bob Smith, but not OP.]

        Candidate: I’m so sorry about the short notice, but due to a family emergency, I’ll be unable to make it to the interview this morning. Can we reschedule?

        OP: If you’re still interested in the position, you’re going to have to take the lead in rescheduling. FYI, Bob Smith will be unavailable next week because he is going out of town. [Again, OP could have assumed the candidate understood OP would be part of the interview, but if she didn’t mention her own availability — only Bob’s — I could see the candidate interpreting that as interviewing only with Bob.]

        Candidate: Ok, thanks for the information. I will e-mail Bob directly to find a time to reschedule.

        Again, we’d really need to see the actual wording of the e-mails to know if genuine misunderstanding was a possibility, but honestly, I think something like this is a more likely scenario than the candidate intentionally trying to exclude one of the interviewers from the interview.

          1. Ashley*

            Also, if this is the case, OP messed up by complaining that this candidate was sexist to her colleague, thereby harming the candidate’s reputation, and updating the colleague of her misinterpretation of the events would be the right course of action.

            FWIW, I know we typically take the OP at their word here at AAM, but there is enough confusion here to make me want to second this alternate interpretation. If OP provides more context, I will happily backtrack.

            1. Managing to get by*

              Regardless of whether this is the case or not, the OP still messed up by complaining that the candidate was sexist. Unless she’s a mind reader.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              “we typically take the OP at their word here at AAM”

              I thought that was for factual information, not for someone’s perception, especially if the question is “did I overreact?” Pointing out that OP may have misinterpreted isn’t about not taking her at her word, it’s answering her question with “Maybe? Any chance there was a misunderstanding?”

            3. JamieS*

              I think it’s safe to take the OP at her word that she interpreted the interaction with the candidate as being sexist.

            4. Janonymous*

              She said her colleague said it was the late notice on cancellation that made him not interested in the candidate, not the sexism.

            5. Mookie*

              How’d the OP “mess” something up? Her colleague had already decided not to hire the applicant because she’d cancelled the first interview.

          2. Hmmmmm*

            Now I’m thinking that it is possible the candidate was trying to avoid sexism, ironically, by not asking a female partner who had told her to “take the lead” to make an appointment with the male colleague on the candidate’s behalf. That being said, I always CC everyone from a company that I have been in contact with on the email chain if I have never met anyone involved in the hiring. You never really know who is doing what at that stage in the process.

            1. my two cents*

              that’s the part I don’t understand.

              Any time I’ve been in an application/interview process with a company, I just keep the recipient list however they have it and go with ‘reply all’. That goes double for instances where I’m not 100% certain who to address, like the case here.

              If that company includes more people on the email exchange, I just assume it’s for a reason.

              1. Augusta Sugarbean*

                I think I’d go the other way. If I was told “Fergus is out of town this week, take the lead on rescheduling. Here’s his email.”, I would assume that I was supposed to contact Fergus and he’d coordinate with OP. In my head, it would look like OP told me to sort it out with Fergus so I shouldn’t bother her with any more details.

                1. Genny*

                  Even still I would cc the person I was originally in contact with so they would know I had followed up. To me it seems like a safe way to close the loop while still showing everyone involved that I’m still interested in the position.

            2. M-C*

              That’d be the sensible thing to do no matter what the circumstances, keep everyone in the cc list. So one point off the candidate’s common sense.

              I note with (sad) wonder how quick the commentariat here is to blame the OP and assume the candidate is most likely not exibiting sexism, when in fact the OP seems right on the mark to me. Not to mention that statistically speaking sexism is likely.

              OP, in your shoes I wouldn’t hire this person under any circumstances. Think of it as the normal response to cancelling an interview at 6am. But I think I’d also ask the partner to not interview her, what a waste of time. Just cancel at the last minute and tell her bluntly that cutting out the hiring partner was not constructive :-).

        1. my two cents*

          well yeah, buttttt why did the male colleague decide to reschedule a ‘penalty interview’ without consulting OP? Especially considering that OP had first reached out to the candidate.

          It’s fair to see a last-minute cancellation as a lack of interest in the role, especially since they reached out to her first. But like, rescheduling just so you can take her to task is Real Gross.

          1. Susana*

            Agree with both Mytwocents and M-C. I do think the applicant assumed LW was administrative…but the other partner was worse, negotiating an interview without bringing his partner in for it. But I also wonder – did the applicant offer no explanation? I mean, if there was a death in the family or something, it would be a little harsh to dent her for wanting to reschedule…

        2. SleepyMel*

          To me this sounds like a misunderstanding…or the candidate may have imagined OP was mad about the rescheduling and she was better off following up with the male colleague.

        3. Dolphins Need Their Feathers Back*

          That’s how I read it too. I’m mot sure how else to take the wording “take the lead” – if I were the applicant, I think I would have done the same thing. It’s hard to say for sure though without reading the email exchange.

      2. TCamp*

        I agree, especially if there was reference made only re: the availability of the male colleague. I could see how the candidate may inadvertently make the assumption the interview would be only with him. The initial reply could’ve been more clear. Such as referencing rescheduling with “us”.

        That said, if I was the candidate I’d notice things like peer level titles so I’d be a little more proactive in confirming who I’d be interviewing with rather than just assuming. I’m also an HR Manager so it’s also the way I think anyway.

    2. LBK*

      Yeah, frankly I wouldn’t really know what “take the lead with rescheduling” meant. It’s especially a weird thing to say about a job interview since generally the candidate is supposed to keep their schedule open to accommodate the interviewers, so it’s up to the interviewers to offer slots that work for them and then the candidate to fit into them.

      Now, I don’t think any of this necessarily excuses the OP somehow getting cut out of the process. Did the employee not understand that the original interview included the OP? I don’t get why you’d just ignore your original interviewer when trying to reschedule.

      1. Atheist*

        OP didn’t say in her letter that she had also told the candidate OP would be interviewing her. It seems more likely that OP just told candidate “[male partners name] will be interviewing you at [time]”.

        1. LBK*

          I’m a female partner at a small firm for our industry. I replied to her with a note saying, in short, “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview,” bypassing a phone screen. We scheduled this with my male colleague — with the exact same “partner” level title as me — at 8:00 a.m. on a Friday.

          All of that makes it sound pretty clear to me that the interview included the OP, but I guess this is a summary rather than an exact quote so I suppose the wording of what she actually said to the candidate could have been more ambiguous. Would be helpful if the OP could comment and clarify just how explicit it was that she was meant to be a part of the interview.

          1. Cobol*

            Yeah, OP seems super direct. Taking the lead simply means candidate should suggest times. If the original meeting was with two people, there’s no reason to assume that the reschedule doesn’t need to coordinate with both.

                1. Infinity Anon*

                  I think it is very difficult to say how direct she was and how clear the e-mail was without the exact wording. I can see it going either way depending on phrasing.

                2. Terence*

                  OP had a job candidate misunderstand instructions and is complaining about it here instead of sending an email back to clear it up. OP is not direct.

              1. Managing to get by*

                OP seems super undirect to me.
                Direct would not include continuing in the interview process with someone you have not intent of hiring.

                1. Say what, now?*

                  She did want to hire her. It was the male partner that didn’t think she should get a second chance.

              2. Dust Bunny*

                Not super direct.

                1) “Let’s” meaning the OP personally, or the firm as an entity.
                2) “Scheduled with a male colleague”, depending on how it was actually worded, could have sounded as though the applicant was being handed to another partner for the interview.

              3. Mallory Janis Ian*

                It’s not clear to me. In the candidate’s position, I would think that the OP was brushing me off and telling me to try my hand at scheduling with the male partner.

              4. Cobol*

                I mean happy to listen to a reason why she isn’t, but just saying. *not* doesn’t add to discourse.

                It doesn’t really matter if OP is or isn’t, taking the lead isn’t confusing to me in a scheduling email.

      2. Interviewer*

        I think I would chalk it up to a complete & total misunderstanding of your instructions. Jumping to sexism on the candidate’s side seems like a pretty big stretch.

        1. Koko*

          When you’re talking about this kind of low-level unconscious sexism, it’s never a stretch. There have been loads of studies on implicit bias – we all have it and it influences us on a regular basis without us ever being aware of it. Things that deeply-seeded are among the most likely culprits for explaining someone’s behavior.

      3. JamieS*

        Hard to say without knowing OP’s actual phrasing but if I thought I had an interview with Sally and Fergus, reached out to Sally to reschedule, and she told me to take the lead on rescheduling while giving me Fergus’s availability I’d think I was originally mistaken and the interview is just with Fergus. I probably would’ve clarified who I should reschedule with since it sounds like OP was the main point of contact but I think not doing so is a more understandable error than assuming an executive is a secretary.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That seems like a weird interpretation of it though. I’d read it as “since you’re canceling, let us know when you’re ready to reschedule and when you’re available, and by the way next week won’t work since Fergus will be out of town.” Since the original interview was with the OP and her colleague, there’s no explanation for why the candidate would then just contact the colleague and cut OP out.

      1. blackcat*

        That’s how I read the letter, but it seems like folks think the interview could have been scheduled with just the male partner.

        It would be good to know which one it was (original interview: Ms. Flake, OP, & Male Partner OR Ms. Flake & Male Partner), and how clear that was to Ms. Flake.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Right, that is what I assumed on first read, and so I could not get at all what the problem was (after posting, I realized, oh wait, hey, maybe…). So, I’d just double check that the email to the candidate in which they scheduled the email was not worded in a way that could be misunderstood – because I see I am not the only person who thought that “scheduling the interview with colleague” meant *just* with colleague.

          Either way, I’d be irritated at colleague, because colleague did know, and then didn’t loop OP back in.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, I read it as OP scheduled the applicant to interview with the male partner (OP not present). If there’s any chance the applicant read it that way, that may be behind their handling of it. (Because I was confused why, if OP was the one most interested in hiring, OP handed the interview off to the male partner – I’d assume whoever I was interviewing with was the one interested in hiring me.)

          On the other hand, if OP’s communication to the applicant was that it was an interview with OP *and* the male partner, and it was explicit about that fact and just this letter to Alison is ambiguous, then that theory doesn’t stand.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Wow, I’m rereading the whole thing and having a VERY difficult time imagining how it could come across as meaning just the applicant and male colleague. I mean, I believe you that that’s how you read it, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that! I’m not being critical, just bewildered. “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview” totally does not come across to me as meaning, “I really like you — let’s you and him meet for an interview without me.”

          2. Ego Chamber*

            “On the other hand, if OP’s communication to the applicant was that it was an interview with OP *and* the male partner, and it was explicit about that fact”

            Given, I’m in a completely different industry and I don’t know how interviews are coordinated for white collar jobs and above, but if someone contacted me about an interview and said one of the interviewers will be out of town and I need to “take the lead” on rescheduling, I would contact the interviewer who has the mentioned conflict to figure out scheduling with them—but I would be assuming they would loop in the other interviewer(s) as necessary.

            Tl;dr: Even if the email wasn’t ambiguous, with instructions like that I wouldn’t realize I was cutting the OP out by contacting a different interviewer to reschedule.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I definitely read it as saying the interview was just with the male partner. If that’s not the case, I’m wondering whether any of this was as ambiguous in the actual set-up that could have led the candidate to have the same confusion.

        4. Optimistic Prime*

          Assuming that the interview was only with the male partner would be strange if the candidate had done even a cursory search to find out what the OP’s title was.

      2. Sara*

        See I read it as ” You need to pick a date to reschedule with us, and also my partner has a schedule with conflicts”. I would think the candidate assumes she’s being helpful but trying to work things out directly with the partner with conflicts. ‘Take the lead in rescheduling’ is a weird way to phrase ‘give us times you’re available’ if that’s what she meant.

        1. LBK*

          But even in that scenario, I would still expect to include the OP. One person having a more full schedule doesn’t mean you only meet with that person, it means you coordinate with that person since they’ll be harder to schedule with and then you still loop in the original person who presumably has a less tight schedule.

          1. Sara*

            But we don’t know what her conversation was like with Partner B – she could have said “I will email back Partner A and let her know the time” and he could have told her not to bother since he already thinks this is a waste of their time. She could have asked him to relay the information to Partner A, or even asked him to set up an invite thinking it was something on his end he should do. Obviously, she should have looped in A from the start, but she could have been avoiding cc’ing her on a bunch of scheduling back and forth emails.

            She might be sexist. She might be a little dumb. But she could also be neither.

          2. Corey*

            > it means you coordinate with that person since they’ll be harder to schedule with

            Which is exactly why one might schedule with that person directly, especially after being told to take the lead. This doesn’t preclude her from looping OP back in when some available times are discovered. What am I missing here.

        2. Rat in the Sugar*

          Yeah, but she’s still leaving out OP if she does that, isn’t she? If two people want to have a meeting with me, I cancel on short notice, and am then told that figuring out the scheduling is kind of on me now, why would I suddenly decide that meant I was now only meeting with one person and not with both?

        3. tigerlily*

          Yeah, anytime someone has told me to “take the lead” on something, they mean they’re taking a step back and away from the whole situation. “I’m gonna let you take the lead” = “I don’t really want/need to be involved in this, so you go for it.” Using that phrase instead of just asking for availability would make me think OP no longer (or was never) really invested in being involved in my interview.

          1. Working Hypothesis*

            Really? I would see it as meaning about the same thing that I’d mean if I asked someone on a date and they canceled at the last minute, and I said, “OK, I’ll let you take the lead on scheduling the next thing we do.” It would mean I wanted to see them show interest by reaching out and initiating the effort to make plans… not that I intended them to make plans that didn’t include me!

            1. Ego Chamber*

              But your metaphor only holds if the original date was for a threesome. ;P

              Fwiw, I read “take the lead” the same way as tigerlily: it’s stepping back + an undertone of “I’m not interested in this enough to actively pursue it anymore, but if you are, we can still move forward.”

              1. Working Hypothesis*

                Yeah, I’m seeing that plenty of people read it that way. Which means that I agree in general that it’s perfectly possible that the applicant in the original case may have read it that way, too, because it’s obviously one way that lots of people *do* read it. Even if that’s not the way *I* read it, it’s apparently common among people who are not being sexist in the least.

                But yeah, if you wanna tweak my original analogy, if somebody has to cancel dinner plans with me and my husband, and I say, “Why don’t you take the lead on rescheduling, and by the way, my husband is out of town this week,” I don’t really expect that they’ll follow up by talking to my husband about getting together without me! OTOH, I *might* see them emailing my husband directly in order to find out when he was back, so that the three of us could get together then… and expecting that *he*, not they, would be letting me know about it and ensuring that I could be there. I wouldn’t do it that way myself, but I could imagine a reasonable person who did.

      3. Elizabeth H.*

        Just from what’s said in the letter it’s not clear to me whether it should have been obvious to the candidate that the original interview WAS with two people, both OP and colleague. I can imagine a scenario in which a senior partner would have been communicating with a candidate but a different partner is the one who interviews her. I genuinely can’t tell either way – it’s possible that it should have been extremely obvious from context (perhaps something in the “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview,” the OP said that was paraphrased so we don’t know exactly) or it’s possible that it was genuinely ambiguous, or maybe the candidate thought that bc she had canceled on her first interview OP was no longer interested (which in fact seems to be the case) and wanted to be left out of it.

        I also think take the lead in rescheduling is weird and also that it’s extremely weird that colleague didn’t loop OP back in. It seems like a lot of misunderstandings.

      4. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I posted above, but the way that I read the OP’s letter, as a candidate I would have thought she was brushing me off and telling me to try my hand at scheduling with the male partner.

      5. Catherine*

        “Since the original interview was with the OP and her colleague, there’s no explanation for why the candidate would then just contact the colleague and cut OP out.”

        To me, the explanation would be the word “directly.” When I tell someone, “Feel free to contact so-and-so directly,” I specifically mean that I don’t need to be in the loop and anymore. Add that to my inclination to interpret “take the lead” as a sign of encouragement rather than discouragement, and I see how this could be miscommunication. I remain puzzled by the male partner’s not setting the whole thing straight, however.

        1. Catherine*

          Oops, upon rereading, I see that it was the candidate who introduced the word “directly,” which does make it weirder. I’d give her a little credit for communicating exactly what she was doing, perhaps deliberately as an opportunity to let the OP set her straight if she had misinterpreted. But responding with, “I’m sorry, you’ve misunderstood me…” would have been in order.

    4. Rat in the Sugar*

      I personally would have assumed it meant “you just cancelled with less than two hours notice so you need to provide your own list of convenient times and let me pick which one works for me, instead of me providing possible times and you picking what works for you”. Why would you think that OP meant she wasn’t going to be in the meeting anymore?

      1. Raina*

        That’s definitely partly what it meant. And also, as the OP says, she no longer took the candidate’s initial interest as sincere, and the male partner is giving only a courtesy interview after the late cancellation. I’m just saying the late cancellation clearly was a very big deal to both partners, which I think is an aspect getting lost in readers’ looking at the OP’s suggestion that the candidate now take the lead in getting the interview rescheduled.

    5. Leenie*

      Yes – filling the applicant in on her colleague’s schedule and telling her to take the lead in rescheduling really sounds like OP was directing the applicant to deal with the colleague and effectively cut herself out of the process. I think there’s a chance that this was 100% misunderstanding with essentially no sexist assumptions on the applicant’s part.

      1. Tyrion*

        At least this is a good lesson on when to use plain goddamn language rather than idioms and colloquialisms, such as in emails with people you don’t know.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          Good point, but let’s put a pin in this for now and we can circle back on that later.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this is what I thought, too–that she interpreted this to mean that he was the one whose schedule was the hitch in the time of the interview.

      If this had been a candidate at my workplace, the applicant would have had to reschedule through my male colleague because his schedule has a lot more interruptions than mine. I am almost always in the office and can pretty much drop my work whenever the applicant is available. My coworker’s time is a lot more divided and he can’t do that–it’s his schedule that would be the hiccup in fixing a time for an interview, so it would make much mores sense for an applicant to speak to him directly and then for them to let me know.

    7. Eron*

      That is actually how I interpreted the letter my first time through, so I do not think it is a weird or abnormal reading of the instruction “take the lead” when the OP mentions her colleague’s schedule but not her own (since that makes it sound like her colleague is the one this needs to be scheduled around).

      When the candidate responded that she would schedule directly with him, that is when (IMO) the OP should have spoken up with “Actually, we both need to be involved in the scheduling.” I realize that stuff like that is easier in hindsight; but being “outraged” that the candidate scheduled with your colleague directly doesn’t sit quite right with me based on what was in the letter (it feels like the candidate is getting more blame than she deserves).

    8. ThursdaysGeek*

      If I were the candidate, I would take it as I contact the male colleague and we’ll figure out a time that works for us, without bothering the initial person. And then, when it’s figured out, then the person doing the interview would make sure the appropriate people are there. Why would I, the interviewee, be making arrangements for who should attend? Of course the male colleague would invite the initial person, if that was still appropriate, and how would I know?

      I think we’re requiring the person outside of the company to be taking too much responsibility for the inner workings of a company’s interview process.

    9. Sarah*

      Agree. I think LW probably gave unclear instructions.

      Whoever posted that “take the lead” is weird wording– I agree.

    10. heismanpat*

      From the OP’s own words, this sounds like it’s exactly what happened. The OP sent some oddly phrased instruction to “take the lead and reschedule”, while specifically mentioning another colleague’s absence. My reaction would have been the same -> I would assume that you wanted me to re-schedule with the absent colleague and I would assume that you didn’t want to be a part of that discussion.

      You should have simply asked, “What time works for you? Let us know and we can re-schedule.” By your own admission, you didn’t communicate clearly.

      Honestly, nobody will like me saying this, but the rest of the letter comes off as very whiny:
      “How could you not notice my title?”
      “She needs to be taught a lesson!”
      “You’re a feminist social activist, how could you do this to me?”

      Not everything has to be patriarchal oppression. Especially considering this person’s educational background, I’d say a simple misunderstanding is more likely than her intentionally “usurping” you. I’m also not sure why your colleague wants to waste 30 minutes to interview someone as a courtesy. If you really have no tolerance for someone cancelling at the last minute, then cut them loose. If she had a good excuse (i.e. an emergency), I think you should be more lenient.

      1. Bess*

        Calling this letter “whiny” seems quite strange to me.

        The LW’s line about her title is in reference to the candidate’s attention to detail. The LW brings it up while explaining her thought patterns trying to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt. If the candidate assumed she was an admin, it’s because the candidate overlooked the partner’s title, which is not a good sign. And if the candidate assumed she was an admin because she was female, it would be strange given the candidate’s experience in feminist activism.

        The LW was also saying she had NO interest in teaching the candidate “a lesson”–that was her male colleague scheduling a courtesy interview when he had no intention to hire the candidate. The LW was frustrated with her male colleague for doing this.

        1. Data analyst*

          Alison, thank you so much for this policy and for affirmatively holding the discussion participants to this standard.

    11. Graflex*

      That is mostly how I read it.

      I see more of a lack of communication all around then anything else. What exactly is “take the lead” supposed to mean to a job candidate? They don’t work at the company yet, how would they have any idea what the normal hours and availability are for the person they need to talk to?

      OP shouldn’t be angry at the applicant for doing what it sounds like OP told them to do – on her own, the applicant made arrangements to meet with the other partner. What did OP ever tell her partner about the applicant?

      If an applicant missed an interview (canceling the morning of), and my partner didn’t say anything to me, but I heard from the applicant again, I would assume that my partners interest in the candidate is done. (Otherwise, if it was important to my partner, I’d expect input/feedback about a good time to re-schedule the interview. At least a simple one-line email that said “I think _____ is still a good applicant, I left it up to them to schedule a new interview time with you.”

      I don’t know what the office dynamic is, or what the working dynamic between these two partner-level employees is but it seems like there was a communications breakdown between the two of them over this applicant.
      OP says that “He offered her 30 minutes (courtesy “no” in his mind — he will not take her application seriously after her late cancellation). I’ve shared my outrage with him — I was the one interested in her, not him particularly.” OP mentions sharing outrage that the applicant was basically ignored – but OP never mentions saying or doing anything that would have supported the applicant as a viable candidate after the cancellation.

    12. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

      I tend towards quite a cynical eye, but I would have taken “take the lead in rescheduling,” to mean, “don’t bother me with this.”

      It’s probably also sexist, though. If a man in a suit said it, might I think he meant, “my secretary does my scheduling”? Possibly.

      1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

        On further reading, I think the phrase “take the lead” might be a regionalism or a businessism or something as well (my job is not a business job). I’m from a large metropolitan area with a reputation for… directness, but it can go a funny way when you’re not shouting at taxis or tourists. If you want to see someone, you have to be really clear about it, like, “Hey, do you want to go on an Oval Line cruise to see the Sculpture of Self-Determination on Thursday night at 7:35 PM? With me?” or, “I own a bar on Avenue B and 119th street, you should come by sometime and blow it up.”

        “Oh my it’s been fantastic seeing you! We should get together soon!” means either, “I really, really want to see you, but I’m so busy and you’re so busy that we both know it will never happen except by chance,” or “I will see you in Hell and cook your bones for soup in the Devil’s Kitchen.” So the indirectness to me is a clear indication of a brush-off, but it could just be a New Amsterdam thing.

        The OTHER reason I would take it to mean “don’t bother me with this anymore,” is because the other meaning is, “Take the lead in following up with me if you want the job,” which sounds incredibly condescending if I just… did.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          Being from New Amsterdam myself, I not only know *exactly* what you mean by the weird ways our directness works, but I howled with laughter at your slight modifications of names I know well. Thank you for a moment of vast amusement! *waves at the Oval Line boat as it passes Welfare Island*

  2. Jaguar*

    This seems like assuming malice where there’s no need to?

    I apply for a job. I get a response back setting up for an 8am interview. I find out (for whatever reason) I have to cancel at the last minute, so I let my contact know two hours before the interview. Expecting to know what other time would work, I’m instead told to “take the lead” in rescheduling (???). Having no idea what that means, and since it was the other person whose schedule is the constraint, I “take the lead” and try to work out a schedule with that person. Now I’m a sexist.

    1. Jennifer M.*

      I think I see it the same way you did: Male partner and candidate were the ones with scheduling issues therefore they work it out together to fix it. But perhaps that is overly generous of me.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        Yep. And I can see how you might say: okay so I’ll coordinate with Fergus directly to reduce email load for the other person.

        1. Murphy*

          To me, the word “directly” sounds like “instead of through you” which says to me that she did think that OP was an admin. Otherwise, she would have included OP in the scheduling, because OP’s schedule would still be relevant.

      2. Rat in the Sugar*

        But it sounds like the original interview was supposed to be OP, male partner, and candidate–and then the candidate went ahead and scheduled a meeting with only the male partner, excluding OP. Maybe I’m reading wrong, but that was my interpretation.

          1. Triangle Pose*

            I don’t think the candidate even understood that the original interview was suppose to include LW.

            “I replied to her with a note saying, IN SHORT, “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview,”…We scheduled this with my male colleague”

            Given how unclear LW was with the candidate in telling her the male partner has schedule conflict next week and then asking her to “take the lead in rescheduling” my guess is that the first note from LW wasn’t clear that LW was also conducting the interview.

            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t think OP was unclear at all. She sounds pretty direct. I think the candidate assumed OP was a scheduler or otherwise blew her off.

              1. Triangle Pose*

                I disagree. LW does NOT sound pretty direct. She told a candidate that male partner has travel conflicts and told her to “take the lead” in rescheduling. That sounds like candidate should schedule it with male partner with a side implication that LW does not want to be involved in the scheduling of the interview.

                1. LBK*

                  She might not have wanted to be involved in the scheduling of the meeting, but that doesn’t mean she gets cut out of the actual interview…

                2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  That’s not how I interpreted the email at all. I understand that reasonable minds can differ on this, but that indicates that there’s at least two reasonable interpretations, and one of those may include the idea that OP communicates in a clear and direct way.

                3. Purplesaurus*

                  I think even clear, direct communication can be interpreted different ways. And while I agree that OP was clear*, I also agree with the alternate interpretation.

                  (* Although unless OP specifically said, “take the lead to reschedule with me and Male Man,” then I can’t assume the candidate intentionally cut her out.)

                  HOWEVER, I don’t think any of this really matters considering both partners were put off by the candidate canceling with such short notice and don’t seem willing to hire her anyway.

                4. tigerlily*

                  “She might not have wanted to be involved in the scheduling of the meeting, but that doesn’t mean she gets cut out of the actual interview…”

                  Then she wasn’t being clear and/or direct. It’s very easy for the candidate to misinterpret an “I don’t want to be involved in the scheduling” to mean “I don’t need to be involved in this interview.”

                5. Jerry Vandesic*

                  The interview was cancelled because the male colleague was unavailable. This could imply that the male colleague is the critical person on the employer’s side. From the candidate’s perspective, if the OP was sufficient for the interview, why wouldn’t the OP simply find a time that works and do the interview without the male colleague?

                6. LBK*

                  I am honestly baffled by people acting as though there’s some general rule that there’s only one person whose attendance matters per interview. I would never infer that rescheduling around one person’s schedule means they’re the more important person. I would always assume the attendees are equally important, and if one of two equally important people can’t attend, you have to reschedule, regardless of which one it is.

                  If you need two keys to unlock a door and you don’t have one of them, that doesn’t mean the one you don’t have is the more important one. You still need both equally; if you find the other key but lose the first one in the process, you aren’t clear to proceed just because you found the one you didn’t originally have.

              2. Triangle Pose*

                I didn’t say there did not exist a reasonable interpretation that matched LW’s intentions. In fact, because there at least two reasonable interpretations of what LW said that are pretty much in opposition with each other is exactly what makes LW so unclear. It’s pretty much the definition of unclear.

                See downthread where there are commenters below are basically saying “Oh wait! By scheduling with the male colleague, did you mean all 3 of you? I read it as just having scheduled an interview with candidate and colleague – not candidate, colleague, and you.”

              3. Kyrielle*

                I thought she was pretty unclear, since I was surprised to learn she was the main one interested in the candidate because I read her letter as indicating she scheduled the candidate to interview with her colleague *and not her*. I figured out by the end of the letter that wasn’t the case, but it was absolutely my impression initially. ‘I am interested, please talk to Fergus to figure out if it makes sense to go further’ was the scenario I was envisioning from the early part of her letter!

                When people say she was direct and clear, I think it mostly means their initial interpretation of ambiguous wording in this letter (to Alison) matched hers…mine didn’t. I wonder if something similar happened with the emails with the candidate. (And they may not have! For example, an Outlook invite with all three, or a “Fergus and I would be pleased to meet with you Friday morning” type sentence, would be really clear. But…OP’s not very clear in phrasing in this letter, to my eyes. I could see how something similar may, or may not, have played out with the candidate.)

            2. Sam*

              I don’t see how “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview,” would be easily misinterpreted, to be honest. It’s fairly clear that the author of the email wants to meet. Rescheduling without that person seems…odd.

              1. sunny-dee*

                Yeah, but it’s not clear that that’s how it was phrased in the actual communication. The OP could have said something like, “your application is really impressive, and we’d love to schedule an interview.” Which would not be apparent at all the that OP was a hiring manager or even an interviewer — I’ve had similar emails from admins or from recruiters where the actual interview was with someone else.

                1. CrazyEngineerGirl*

                  True, and we also don’t know how the ‘I suggested she “take the lead” in rescheduling’ was phrased either. And many commenters seem to be taking that literally. That may be exactly what she said, or maybe not. OP put quotes around both “I really like you — let’s meet for an interview” and “take the lead.” I read the email as OP being quite direct, but I can see how others here got the opposite impression. Without knowing the exact phrasing used for both of these instances, I don’t think we can draw any accurate conclusions.

              2. SomeoneLikeAnon*

                I had a recruiter that loved me – said I looked good on paper and everything. She passed my resume to the hiring manager who said no. I could see someone misinterpreting “i like you let’s meet” to mean that this person was not the actual hiring manager or gatekeeper for employment.

          2. tigerlily*

            That seems more the colleague’s fault than the candidates. She misunderstood the OP and scheduled with the Male Colleague as she thought she was being instructed to. He knew the interview was supposed to be with both and should have included OP in the final scheduled meeting.

            1. Ego Chamber*


              I am side-eyeing Male Colleague so hard right now for 1) not looping the OP into the interview schedule when OP is the one who needs staff and he doesn’t; 2) scheduling a courtesy interview (aka: waste of everyone’s time) with no intention to hire, 2b) possibly to teach the candidate a lesson (whut?!) for cancelling on such short notice; 3) especially if his reason for #1 is related to #2 (as in, “I didn’t want to waste your time on this interview with someone I won’t hire, even though you’re the one who needs to hire someone and you were interested in this candidate,”—I’m just not liking how he’s making decisions on the OP’s behalf… and yet the candidate is the one who’s being sexist/oblivious to OP’s role in the firm?).

        1. You're Not My Supervisor*

          Right, but if the candidate had no idea who was supposed to be in the interview (until she was told “[male colleague], who needs to be in this interview, is out of the office next week” why would the candidate have done any differently? I truly think this was a misunderstanding.

          1. EddieSherbert*

            Yeah, this is where I fall too… She probably just got confused and didn’t want to ask and potentially annoy them (since she already cancelled on them once).

            1. Kelly L.*

              “Dear Alison,

              I had to cancel my interview, and when I asked to reschedule, the Lady Teapot Manager told me the Dude Teapot Manager was out of town, and told me to ‘take the lead’ on rescheduling. WTF did she mean? Who should I email?”

                1. Managing to get by*

                  Unless “you take the lead” could be construed to mean “don’t bother me with this”

              1. RUKiddingMe*

                The way it reads to me is: ” Since you cancelled with only two hours’ notice I’m not sure of your actual interest int he job. Therefore if you are interested, please take the lead in rescheduling an interview (unsaid: because I am not going to put in any more work towards scheduling someone who would cancel only two hours before their appointment time).

            2. Optimistic Prime*

              But that’s silly. When you’re applying for a job and want to make a good impression, it seems like the most sensible thing to do IS ask.

              1. Not a Morning Person*

                True, asking seems to be the most sensible to us and most of the readers, but please note all the letters to Alison asking “What does this mean?” and “What should I do?” from many candidates who are confused about when to call back, how often, is it too soon, did I wait too long, etc. The OP’s description of the communication to and from the candidate leaves something to the imagination as we can see from the differing interpretations. We know what we mean but others often hear something different. And email is more open to even more misinterpretation.

        2. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

          I did not understand it that way initially, but going back I could see that interpretation. But that is an issue – it sounds like OP wasn’t clear with the candidate. If I were the candidate, I would assume “take the lead in rescheduling with Colleague” means contact him to reschedule, not OP.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          That’s why I think it’s the male partner who is mostly in the wrong here. Best-case scenario, the candidate was confused, but the other partner had the opportunity to loop OP back in.

          1. L*

            I agree. I don’t find OP’s language clear and I think it is reasonable for the applicant to have been confused and not realize OP was supposed to be in the meeting too. However, the male partner definitely should have understood and either corrected the OP or not gone around OP’s back to set up the meeting.

            Also, OP, if you know you’re not going to accept a candidate, don’t set up a fake interview with them. It is totally reasonable to say that because she canceled at the last minute you will no longer consider her for the job.

            1. Working Hypothesis*

              Yeah, on reflection, I third this.

              I don’t know, because we don’t have the exact wording of any of the communications, whether the applicant was being sexist for trying to schedule with just the male partner, or was simply misunderstanding the way the LW told her to do things. But the male partner was in full possession of all relevant information here. He knew that the LW was supposed to be involved in the interview. He could easily have answered the applicant’s scheduling email with, “That time works for me. I’m looping LW in on this thread so she can tell us if it works for her also. LW?”

              I suspect the reason he didn’t do that was that he didn’t take this entire interview seriously enough to bother getting it right, because he’d already decided he wasn’t interested in the candidate. He’d checked out and was going through the motions. So it didn’t make a lot of difference to him whether he interviewed her alone or with LW, because he’d already decided he wouldn’t hire her anyhow. (And I’m not sure about how that works, when the LW supposedly had equal say in who gets hired… does any one person in the process have veto power, or was he making a decision he didn’t have the authority to make, or was he actually final arbiter even though LW was the one who needed the staff, due to some odd corporate hierarchy quirk? No idea.)

              Anyway, seems like at minimum, he didn’t correct a miscommunication he had all the data necessary to know about, and could’ve corrected pretty easily.

            2. my two cents*

              OP feels the whole thing smells of sexism, and she’s right…but not because of the candidate, it’s because of the partner.

              Partner could have easily added her back in copy.
              Partner could have also just told candidate they weren’t interested after the cancellation, but instead thought it necessary to take the candidate to task over it at least a week later (which is also Gross).

              1. Ellie*

                I disagree, the partner could have taken the candidate contacting them directly to reschedule at face value… that the letter writer had told them they weren’t interested in hiring them anymore or that they were only interested in working with them specifically. I think the candidate was definately sexist though… to me, the letter writer’s ‘take the lead’ is extremely clear, as in ‘suggest a day/time that suits you, this is our schedule’. She was the first and primarly contact the candidate had with the company, even if she wasn’t a partner (was HR rep or something), she still should have been cc’d by the candidate. It’s weird that she wasn’t.

                Letter writer – the candidate made a big mistake. I would just move on with other options.

                1. Working Hypothesis*

                  Although I read the “extremely clear” statement the same way you did, I’m forced to recognize that it actually can’t be “extremely clear,” given just how many people here read it totally different from either of us. I don’t for a moment believe sexism on the part of every single AAM commenter who has written in to say, “I totally saw it as saying, ‘I’m not interested in participating in this anymore, so leave me out of it!'”

                  So I have to conclude that, even if it *looks* extremely clear *to me*, it is still possible for reasonable people to understand it very differently with no sexism involved. Because they did… lots of them.

        4. Managing to get by*

          Depending on exactly how the emails were worded, it not completely out of bounds to think there could be some confusion. “Male partner isn’t available X days, you take the lead on rescheduling” with the reply “Okay, I’ll contact him to set something up” isn’t too weird.
          What is weird, in my experience, is “you take the lead on scheduling your job interview”. That could make someone feel like the person who said that is stepping out of the process, even if they had been included in the initial email.

          If you don’t want to pursue this candidate because they cancelled at the last minute on their interview, just say that. Don’t waste everyone’s time interviewing someone you know you won’t hire. If you are understanding of the fact that they could have had something inconvenient yet serious come up on the morning of the interview, and you do want to continue pursuing the candidate, then work with them to schedule another interview.

          The OP’s communication with this candidate is not clear, in that to the candidate it appears she’s still in contention for the job but the OP knows she won’t be hired. It’s not a stretch to think other parts of the communication may not be clear.

          I think that “go ahead and schedule your own interview” while knowing she has no chance of getting the job, is pretty passive-aggressive.

        5. Forrest*

          Yea but that was the original interview and also the OP explaining her intention to us. We don’t know how clear the OP was to the candidate about what the rescheduled interview would be like and she didn’t share what her schedule was. The coworker hindered things further by not saying “yea, that works for me and OP.”

          I don’t know, telling a candidate to take the lead in rescheduling is weird anyway. Also, I don’t think it’s much of a courtesy to waste someone’s time in an interview when you already know you’re not going to hire them.

      3. Flossie Bobbsey*

        I came here to say the same thing. The OP’s response to the candidate said the male partner (“MP”) was unavailable for a period of time, but it’s not clear whether OP’s own availability was mentioned. With only a reference to MP’s period of availability and a direction for me to take the lead to reschedule, I might have assumed in the candidate’s shoes that I was only supposed to reschedule with MP. Granted, I probably would have clarified since the original invitation was from the OP, but it could be an innocent blunder having nothing to do with gender or titles.

    2. Sharon*

      I can sort of see what you mean, but if I was the candidate I’d still include the LW in the revised meeting time. The fact that she didn’t is what looks like sexism.

      1. LBK*

        Agreed – I don’t see how you could interpret rescheduling with the person who’s unavailable to mean that you just don’t ever interview with the person who was available. Did she think the OP was just getting dropped out of the process? I think sexism is totally plausible as an explanation for why the candidate would think she just didn’t need to meet with the OP at all as long as she met with the male manager.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Right, that’s the problem here. (As is the fact that the coworker didn’t loop the LW back in and just went ahead with an interview on his own.)

        1. LKB*

          I’m inclined to read this less as the applicant made a sexist error, but her partner. It’s plausible that the applicant was working with the partner whose schedule was more complicated, assuming male partner would plan a meeting with both partners. Without more details, we can’t be sure, but it reads like she was saving the OP the hassle of working our their schedules and could have intended male partner to make sure OP was available.

        2. Managing to get by*

          Unless “you take the lead on rescheduling” seemed to mean the LW was stepping out of the process, either through how it is worded or in the context of the rest of the email. “Okay I’ll contact the other partner directly” could have been meant to confirm next steps.

        3. Working Hypothesis*

          The male coworker’s actions really confuse me here.

          Not only didn’t he loop the LW back into the thread, when he knew she was supposed to be involved, but he decided on his own initiative that this applicant would 1) get a courtesy interview with just him, but/and 2) not get hired… both of these while LW was the one who needed the staff? And he doesn’t outrank her? I’ve seen bosses who do interviews and make hiring decisions on their own for staff who will be working for one of their subordinates (though I don’t think it’s a good idea, if the subordinate is the one who will have to manage them, to do it without their considerable input), but I’ve never seen an equal-ranked colleague do it.

        4. SWGl*

          I’m a female software developer, so I’m really sensitive to sexism right now… and I just really can’t see it here.
          You always warn your commenters against assigning motivation to the people in a letter or adding on assumptions that aren’t included in the letter… it looks like OP is doing this to the candidate. Saying that the candidate intentionally “cut her out” of the interview to “usurp” her is assigning a (malicious) motive to the candidate’s actions that’s probably not there based on the details we have… misunderstanding is just so much more likely.
          You regularly give advice to letter writers who are confused about what to do in the hiring process, confused about the messages they get from the hiring managers, recruiters, or HR, and don’t understand how hiring works from the employer’s side. Before reading your blog I might have thought otherwise, but reading this my first assumption is that the candidate is in the “confused” category just like so many of the people who write to you.
          Considering how weird it would be if the candidate did intentionally cut her out, it seems way more likely that the candidate thought that OP’s intention was for her to reschedule with the other colleague. Unless there are other details we don’t know, I’m having a lot of trouble understanding OP’s reaction to it.

          1. SWGl*

            Imagine the letter coming from the other side if OP had replied to the candidate:
            “I had to cancel an interview at the last minute. The hiring manager had scheduled my interview with one of her colleagues. When I reached out to cancel, she said that I should ‘take the lead’ on rescheduling, but that Fergus was out of the office the next week. I thought that meant that she wanted me to reschedule with Fergus, so I told her I would reach out to him. After that, she sent me an angry email about usurping her authority by cutting her out. What did I do wrong?”
            You might tell that person that she should have emailed back to confirm what the manager meant, or that she should have continued to include the original manager even if she was rescheduling based on the other colleague’s schedule, but I think you also would have told her that the reaction of the OP was bizarre and not to take it personally.

        5. PXIend*

          I’m really surprised by your take on this. I was expecting one of your measured responses of “if there were no other indications, there’s no reason to think she meant that,” particularly considering the OP’s extreme language to describe the situation. It’s a huge leap from “she said she would reschedule directly with Fergus” to “I’m outraged that she tried to usurp me/cut me out and she assumed I was the goddamn secretary.” (All words from the original letter and the OP’s updates in the comments.)
          I know first-hand how often we’re told that we’re being too sensitive or that something is all in our heads, and there’s nothing that will make me angrier than someone suggesting that I’m overreacting to something. I’ve definitely experienced how sexism comes out in subtle ways. It’s something I’m cognizant of every day.
          …but this situation just screams misunderstanding.

      3. BethRA*

        This. The interview as with two people, not sure why the candidate assumed only one of them counted for the reschedule.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        Even if she thinks OP is the male partner’s assistant and not a partner–“I’ll just cut out your assistant, my point of contact to date” is a very bad idea. (Sounds like gumptioning to “I’ll just deal with the person who can make decisions” without realizing that sometimes that person listens to other people.)

        1. Samata*

          Yes, when I was in HR this wouldn’t have boded very well for a candidate. I was front line to hiring manager, if they circumvented me it was usually because they thought, and I quote from one of my favorite VP candidates…” I don’t see how it’s relevant to discuss anything with you and. Please connect me with someone who has some authority and knowledge of the position” Well, I do have authority buddy – to not pass you to the next stage.

        2. LJP*

          This is a reason I think it was an honest misunderstanding from the candidate. Deliberately cutting an interviewer out when you’re the candidate is pretty egregious. Even if she thought OP was an assistant, if she thought OP was included in the initial interview, it would still be strange to exclude her in the reschedule unless she thought that’s what the OP was directing her to do.

        3. tigerlily*

          But she didn’t do that randomly – it was after being told to “take the lead on rescheduling.” If she was supposed to take the lead on rescheduling with OP, didn’t she already do that by saying “hey I have to cancel, can we reschedule?” Responding to that with “you take the lead on rescheduling” would lead me to believe OP was saying “I don’t need to be involved.” So the candidate contacted Male Colleague directly because OP had just told her she didn’t need to be involved. If she did need to be looped into the meeting, it was Male Colleague’s responsibility.

      5. serenity*

        That could be the case, but we’re all just speculating as we don’t know the exact language of the email(s) sent between OP and the candidate. Maybe the candidate did misinterpret, or there was an unfortunately sexist slant to her actions – we just don’t know for sure.

      6. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Yes! I’m really surprised by the number of “oh, the response email was unclear” posts. But maybe I’m also more willing to see this as a sexism issue.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          I’m perfectly willing to see this as sexism.

          It was the “we scheduled this with male colleague” – in lots of my prior experience interviewing, a hiring partner contacts me for an interview, but then the interview is actually with the partner to whom I would report. Both partners, no one is an admin, but I still only meet with the other partner. So with that wording, that’s how I understood the situation (in which case, rescheduling with the partner you’d interview with seems like a fine thing to do). Only on re-read did I realize that it’d be with both partners. That’s likely industry and firm-type dependent, but that’s where my reaction came from.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I could see that happening in, for example, academia too. We’ll have a candidate in, and if she comes on the originally scheduled date, Professors A, B, C, D, and E are there and can meet with her. But if she reschedules, maybe B is out of town but F has come back into town, so she meets with A, C, D, E, and F instead.

            1. Catherine*

              Yes, that’s been my experience too–even for the same position, candidates may not meet with exactly the same group of interviewers, depending on who’s available on the interview days. I wouldn’t think twice about a change of day changing the line-up. I’ve even been on an interview team where the hiring manager wasn’t one of the interviewers because of scheduling, and just went on recommendation from the rest of us.

        2. serenity*

          Well, considering we didn’t see the response email verbatim and are getting a paraphrase from OP, it’s worth mentioning that we’re just guessing. It could very well be sexism. It could also very well be unclear language or just a misinterpretation by the candidate.

          1. Toph*

            Yeah, to me this is heavily dependent on the exact wording of both OP’s message re: rescheduling and the wording of candidate’s response about going to Male Partner. From the general description we have, it could have been confusion, or it could have been “gumptioning” or it could have been subtle sexism, but it’s impossible to tell because the nuance is going to be in the word choices.

        3. oranges & lemons*

          I don’t really see it as an either/or–either the email was unclear or the interviewee is a moustache-twirling bigot. I think it’s likely that the email chain was unclear enough to throw the interviewee off (and possibly her attention to detail isn’t great) and also the OP and her colleague’s genders made it easier for the interviewee to jump to the conclusion that the OP has more of an administrative/scheduling role. Unfortunately I think this is the kind of mistake a lot of people could easily make.

          1. Optimistic Prime*

            Yes, exactly it. Just because the candidate made a justifiable error doesn’t mean that the error was not motivated, in part, by gendered assumptions. That’s what sexism *is.*

        4. JB*

          It’s not that the response email was unclear, it’s that the AAM post is unclear.

          There is so much speculation in the comments about what actually was said to who when, but not enough hard information to determine what the applicant might reasonably have been thinking.

        5. Optimistic Prime*

          Me too, and I’m kind of weirded out about all the backflips people are going through to rationalize how it isn’t. Even if the candidate made a genuine mistake, genuine mistakes can still be unconsciously motivated by sexism.

          1. Jessie the First (or second)*

            Backflips?? It was *literally my first impression reading the letter, and I went into it on the lookout for sexism.* If my impression from the letter is that the initial interview was with candidate and the colleague – and NOT with OP, how is that a backflip? That was what I thought the setup was, and I had to check in the comments to figure out “hey, what was the issue with rescheduling directly with the person with whom the interview is going to be? Oh, it was supposed to ALSO be with OP?” And I knew she was a partner, same level (that’s not odd IME – I’ve had partner A call but I’m actually meeting with Partner B).

            That’s not a backflip. That’s just reading the letter differently.

            It could be sexism, because maybe the applicant had not misunderstood, or did misunderstand because she assumed the OP was an admin or a junior partner, or because the OP’s actual wording in the emails was different and more clear. But it is not a backflip that my reading of the actual interview situation was entirely different – I knew OP was same level manager, I knew she was not an admin, and I honestly read the letter thinking that the interview was with candidate and only colleague.

        6. Honey Rider in her bikini*

          “But maybe I’m also more willing to see this as a sexism issue.”

          Big surprise there

      7. zora*

        I feel like it’s really presumptuous for a job candidate to tell the interviewers who will and will not be included on future emails.

        I actually do the scheduling for my boss, and if someone told me they were going to ‘schedule with Susan directly” I would be super pissed, that is not how this works. I agree that the OP should have said something immediately, I like Alison’s “I think you’ve mistaken me for a scheduler” line

        I think the candidate was weird in her behavior and responses, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some innate bias at work as well. But I also put more of the responsibility at the foot of that other partner who didn’t loop the OP in, that was really weird.

    3. KEG*

      I agree. No part of me read this as sexist. The male partner’s schedule is what needs to be worked around, I also would’ve taken your response to take the lead as to reschedule with him.

      1. LBK*

        But then what happens to her interview with the OP? If she never met with the OP, obviously she would need to reschedule their interview as well…

        1. Sam*

          Right. Best case scenario, the candidate is assuming that OP has a wide-open schedule and would be able to meet whenever Male Colleague was available. That would strike me as very out-of-touch.

    4. Snarkus Aurelius*

      “Take the lead” doesn’t mean cut out anyone from the equation. It means work together and figure it out so we can all interview.

        1. Jaguar*

          I mean, thinking about it now, “take the lead” could also be read as “any time works for me, so whatever you work out with Jack is fine with me.”

          1. LBK*

            …but that interpretation still doesn’t mean “only meet with Jack”. It means “I’m open and Jack is the one that will be hard to get ahold of, so just figure out with him and then I’ll join”.

            It is especially weird that Jack didn’t include the OP, though. Even if the candidate cut her out of the scheduling conversation, I don’t understand why he wouldn’t have brought her in after.

            1. Jaguar*

              Maybe we’re reading the “Update” section differently. It says Jack offered an 30 minute interview time, not conducted, so it’s not clear to me an interview happened. And if it did, isn’t it Jack’s fault the OP wasn’t at the interview?

              Besides which, the accusation of sexism comes before the “Update” section (which was presumably written afterwards), so I don’t think the sexism complaint is contingent on the interview having happened.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I think that the interview is still in the future. Male colleague is planning to meet with her at some future date, but won’t be considering her all that seriously due to the first cancellation.

        2. finderskeepers*

          I see some variation of that phrase in performance evals and promotion criteria. Don’t know what it means in that context either. :)

          1. finderskeepers*

            additionally, can we add the phrase “take the lead” to that list of annoying office lingo that includes touch base, drill down, and backburner?

            1. LBK*

              Is this even office lingo? I work in a pretty buzzwordy place and I’ve never heard that one used for anything other than its usual colloquial meaning.

        3. Ramona Flowers*

          “take the lead” means God knows what to an applicant anyone who’s not a mind reader…

      1. Flossie Bobbsey*

        “Take the lead” sort of suggests OP was washing her hands of it (which she apparently was because she thought the initial interest wasn’t sincere), which doesn’t necessarily convey that she wants to be looped in once it’s rescheduled.

        1. AndersonDarling*

          This is what I heard when reading it. I would have interpreted “take the lead” as “You canceled at the last minute. Redeem yourself by arranging a time with my partner.” If that interview went well, I would assume I would be brought back to see the other partner.

        2. Peter the Bubblehead*

          Is there ANY evidence the candidate did not offer to contact or CC the OP when a new interview date was scheduled and was told by the Male Partner not to bother (because he has no intention to hire her)?

    5. Ice Bear*

      I came here to say the same thing. The OP doesn’t say whether she made it clear to the interviewer that she was interviewing her as well, so when she was told the other colleague wasn’t available, she (rightfully) assumed she needed to reschedule with him. Unless the OP left out something important, it sounds like a misunderstanding and not sexist in the least.

      1. LBK*

        She literally said “I really like you – let’s meet for an interview”. I think it’s a stretch to think the candidate could’ve somehow interpreted that as “you will meet with some person at the company who may or may not be me”.

          1. Triangle Pose*

            Yep, that’s my issue with this. Given how confusing it was for LW to tell a candidate that male partner has travel conflicts, please “take the lead” in rescheduling, my guess is that LW did not make it clear she (LW) was conducting the original interview. I actually feel pretty bad for the candidate (if she truly had some emergency at that morning). Candidate prob read that email and thought LW didn’t want to schedule it.

        1. Steve*

          OP put that in her description of the situation, but, it’s her choice of what to highlight about the interactions. The candidate may have interpreted “us” to mean “you and my company” with the latter meaning one or more representatives, the set of which may or may not include OP.

          Also OP dropped the ball by not replying to the candidate’s email when she said exactly what she was going to do.

          Furthermore, unless OP has seen a pattern of sexist behavior from Fergus, his taking of the one-on-one meeting just further confirms that OP has confused everybody. (It’s also a waste of Fergus’ and the candidate’s time to spend 30 minutes of him pretending to listen to the candidate when he has his mind made up, but that’s a separate issue.)

        2. AndersonDarling*

          I kinda hope she didn’t actually say “I really like you.” I’d be a little bit creeped out if a potential employer used that phrase.

    6. Sara*

      Yes that’s exactly as I saw it. Candidate is working with the partner that had the scheduling conflict. I would think on her end, she’s assuming your schedule is open and your colleague will loop you in.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          If it’s not sexism it’s sloppiness.

          This is where I land. OP’s title is probably in the email signature, and on the company website candidate should be reviewing. If your contact with a company has been through Persephone, you don’t arbitrarily cut her out going forward unless you have a much, much more detailed understanding of the company’s chain of command, what’s behind Jack’s implied preference for having Persephone deal with you, and so on.

        2. Laura*

          Absolutely! Don’t assume anything. Loop everyone in and use it as an opportunity to apologise again for the v annoying last-minute cancellation.

    7. k8*

      but why wouldn’t you CC the original person you were contacting when doing this rescheduling if you’re interviewing with both of them?

      1. Jaguar*

        I would. I’m presenting a scenario I think is entirely plausible where the applicant isn’t sexist.

      2. Triangle Pose*

        Because it wasn’t clear to the candidate that LW was suppose to be interviewing with both of them and the original person told her to “take the lead” in rescheduling.

    8. Anon for Sure*

      My only comment would be is it’s 2 hours before an 8a.m. interview. I suspect most people wouldn’t get the message until they checked their email that morning. I know I’d be really irritated at such late notice (unless the candidate indicated that there was some sort of event out of the control).

    9. Shortie*

      Completely agree, Jaguar. This really sounds like a miscommunication and not something more nefarious. I am a woman who is very sensitive to anything I perceive as sexist, and this just doesn’t strike me as sexist at all. It strikes me as unclear wording from the OP to the candidate and then the candidate doing what she thinks she has been asked to do. Then the colleague made it worse by not looping OP back in (although it may have been a misguided attempt to save OP from wasted time since they were no longer considering the candidate).

      1. Steve*

        Also the candidate told OP what her interpretation of the instruction was, and OP didn’t correct the misunderstanding.

    10. Bess*

      As a candidate I would never just cut a random person out of an interview communication like this–if they said “take the lead in rescheduling” after I had cancelled last minute, I would take that as a sign that I’d screwed up and needed to show I was genuinely interested (which is what the LW brings up, if you flake 2 hrs before an interview you’re not showing you’re interested).

      In no circumstance would “take the lead” lead me to believe I should cut that person out of the interview itself, much less the scheduling of it. The only reason I’d do that is if I subconsciously assumed the person emailing was less important than the other one and wasn’t serving a critical role in the interview or hire.

      1. Jaguar*

        Me neither. I’m not trying to excuse the candidate’s behaviour: it’s definitely lacking. I’m trying to put forth a reasonable scenario that doesn’t have the sexist implications that the letter writer jumped to.

  3. Atheist*

    I think I this might just be a simple misunderstanding that both interviewers are overreacting to- I don’t think we should jump to malice or sexism when there’s a much simpler explanation. Since you told her your male colleague was her interviewer, she probably took that at face value and assumed she needed to reschedule for another interview with him.

    By the time you contacted her to reschedule, she may have already reached out to him. Considering you’re not in an administrative role, common sense would dictate it makes more sense for her to directly reschedule with him than to have you go back and forth as middle-man trying to figure out each person’s schedule (ie: her telling you her schedule, you forwarding that to your colleague, then your colleague replying to you and you forwarding that to the candidate, etc).

    Did you tell her at any point that she could interview with you instead of him?

    1. Portia*

      Yes, this is how I read it too. She knew her interview was scheduled with him, and your response told her that “he’s traveling this week; you take the lead in rescheduling.” In her shoes I would have definitely read that as “it’s up to you to find a time that works for him and you.” I would have also taken the “you take the lead in rescheduling” as “please don’t bother me with this anymore.”

      Unless there’s information missing from this letter, I’m not quite sure why both you and Alison are sure there’s sexism, unconscious or otherwise, at play here. (I’m a woman, btw.)

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        “I would have also taken the “you take the lead in rescheduling” as “please don’t bother me with this anymore.”


        1. Lln*

          This interpretation only makes sense if you are assuming your point of contact is an admin or someone otherwise not directly involved in the hiring process. As has been noted above, these are not assumptions that an informed and interested job candidate would be all that likely to make, and moreover, the assumption that a female point of contact isn’t involved in hiring you is the real issue here.

          1. Hedwig*

            Although I can also envision a scenario where the (apparently self-described feminist) candidate is thinking, “This chauvinist partner is making his female colleague do the scheduling, as though she’s his personal assistant. I’ll go through him directly so he can’t foist off his work on her.” And then much advice column fodder ensues.

          2. Optimistic Prime*

            Yes, this! If you can easily see or check on the title and position of the person you’re talking to, this is not a mistake you’d make. It is, however, a mistake you’d make if you were assuming that the person in question is in an administrative role arranging things for a more senior partner.

            1. Jessie the First (or second)*

              Or, as has been my experience, that one partner (the one who called) is the hiring partner, and the other partner is the one you’d actually report to. Neither more senior, just different kinds of partners (and the hiring partner *also* does substantive work, so finding that they do substantive work on their linkedin wouldn’t be any further clue). There have been those separate kinds of roles at literally every firm I have interviewed with before my current one. Now, I’m in a particular industry, and obviously that’s not the setup everywhere and maybe even most places, but it’s just not odd to me that one could think the person calling was not going to be involved in the interview itself while also and simultaneously understanding that the person is a senior partner who is in no way junior to the person doing the in-person interview.

          3. Akcipitrokulo*

            I disagree… it makes sense if the person you’re talking to has basically said “other interviewer is the one with scheduling issues… talk to them”.

      2. Gen*

        “I would have also taken the “you take the lead in rescheduling” as “please don’t bother me with this anymore.” ”

        100% this. Unless there was an added ‘so we can all meet’ or something else explicitly saying OP was still involved I’d assume they were sending me away to talk only to the other person

      3. Rat in the Sugar*

        I would have taken it as “you cancelled less than two hours before the scheduled time so you are apparently having some schedule conflicts right now; therefore please figure out what time is best for you and get back to us, so I don’t have to try to suggest several times and figure out when will work for you and my travelling partner”. Why would she suddenly leave OP out of the interview?

      4. Portia*

        On reading further, though, I’m realizing that OP means she was included in the original interview. I definitely read the “we scheduled this with my male colleague” as “we scheduled the interview with [only] my male colleague,” so I didn’t think it was too strange that the candidate would reach out only to him. There are several points of wording in the OP’s letter that are a bit unclear to me — I’m wondering whether there might have been some similar miscommunication happening with the candidate that led to this outcome.
        Though I agree that the male partner should have looped OP back in when he got the candidate’s email.

    2. blackcat*

      I read it as the interview might be with *both OP and male partner.* Male partner’s schedule prevented rescheduling for the following week, so that is what OP brought up.

      1. LBK*

        Yeah, I said this above but it seems really clear to me that the OP was meant to be included in the interview – the original invitation to the candidate said “let’s meet for an interview”. Not “I’ll set up an interview for you with Joe”.

        1. Triangle Pose*

          I think for me it hinges on the clarity of the original note from LW. If it was clear that LW said “I’d like to meet you for an interview” and not “I’ll set up an interview for you with Joe” or some abiguous “let’s schedule an interview with Joe.”
          I’m just not convinced of this given the subsequent communications from LW and this letter written by LW.

        2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          Hmmm..I’m not sure I’d agree with that. It’s pretty common for someone to contact you and say “we’d like to have you interview” when the person doing the contact isn’t involved past scheduling. The exact wording instead of the summary the OP provided would help.

          I do agree that it would be very unlikely that a partner would be doing the scheduling, but when they had to reschedule and she told the applicant to “take the lead”, I would see no other interpretation but “work it out with him and stop cluttering up my inbox”.

        1. Jessie the First (or second)*

          True, but the fact that it is inflammatory does not mean it is not true.

          My first read was to scratch my head in confusion wondering how sexism shows up – but then realized the original interview was supposed to be all 3. If it was clearly communicated to the candidate that the interview was all 3 of them, then cutting the woman out of the process of reschedule and dealing only with the man looks and acts and smells like sexism.

          If the wording to the candidate was like the wording in this letter, though, it is possible this was a miscommunication and not sexism (because it made not a few of us think the same wrong thing), so that’s something OP should double-check, I think.

          1. Samata*

            I think the confusion among comments, myself included, points to it being hard to give any solid advice without seeing the email actually sent to the candidate. Circumventing the OP all together is a little weird, even if she told me to take the lead I’d probably still CC her so she would see I actually did so in case someone tried to say I didn’t but……

            I had to read it a few times to get that OP meant “let’s schedule an interview” to mean “I want to interview you, but would like to loop my colleague in on that as well” and for “you take the lead, since Joe’s unavailable” to mean “I’ll let you set up the next interview time, but keep in mind that while my schedule is clear for the next week, Joe will be out on Friday, so take that into account.”

          1. Jaguar*

            My point is that it’s not an accusation to throw around cavalierly. I don’t think there’s nearly enough evidence based on what’s in the letter to make the accusation.

            1. LBK*

              Pretty much everyone is sexist to some degree; that’s the nature of living in a patriarchal culture entrenched with institutional sexism. Saying someone did something sexist doesn’t mean they’re morally reprehensible. It’s only inflammatory because people are so unwilling to even consider the possibility that they may have (often subconsciously/unintentionally) done something sexist and then they get defensive and escalate. If people were more willing to step back, self-examine their biases and say “Huh, maybe I was actually being sexist,” it wouldn’t be such a big deal.

              It’s not the people who point out sexism that make it such a serious accusation, it’s the people who freak out and act like that’s the worst thing you could call someone who do.

              1. Koko*

                Exactly. Even the word “accusation” seems really antagonistic. OP writes:

                “My colleague and I have the same title. Perhaps she thought I was performing an administrative role — in replying to her solicitation, in scheduling — but what candidate wouldn’t take care to notice a person’s job title? She does not know what influence I have in hiring decisions (arguably more, given the staff I need). Am I overreacting to her usurping me?

                Did I miss the mark in not replying that she was wrong to cut me out?”

                That’s hardly an “accusation.” It’s someone who is confused about odd candidate behavior, wondering what might have caused it, and considered a reasonably probable explanation–that she was cut out because the candidate assumed she wasn’t important, and that the assumption may very well have been based on her sex. This is someone trying to understand what happened and how to respond to it, not someone levying accusations.

                1. LBK*

                  Precisely – it’s trying to interpret a series of events wherein sexism might have played a role, which could impact how the situation would be addressed.

                2. Jaguar*

                  The OP says they were “blown away” by the candidates sexist behaviour, spends the letter emphasizing the genders at play, and points out that it’s ironic that the candidate (or coworker?) was involved in feminist social action. It’s pretty hard to read that as “confused about odd candidate behavior, wondering what might have caused it.” The OP has already formed her conclusion.

                3. LBK*

                  To each their own, I guess – I reread it and it still comes off as just confused and asserting a possible explanation to me, nothing more severe.

                4. Koko*

                  She actually says: “She replied a few days later saying she would reschedule with him directly. I was so blown back I did not reply.”

                  She was “blown back” by the fact that she was cut out of the interview. I, too, would be surprised and shocked to be summarily cut out of a hiring process that I bad been leading, for any reason. It was that shock and surprise which caused her to then muse about possible explanations for this bizarre behavior.

                5. Bess*

                  Yes, there’s some strange tone-policing of the LW, but it’s weird because the “tone” that’s being policed or critiqued isn’t even there in the letter.

                1. (the reader who asked this question)*

                  Hi — as the author of the question, I’m not trying to make a feminist “thing” about it. Koko + LBK have it right: I was just deeply perplexed. The candidate’s unlikely a “sexist” (resume says the contrary), but I wonder if taking an active role in some tasks such as scheduling/accommodating a candidate give the perception of less seniority (all things, such as title, being equal).

                  Worth noting: Flaky candidate cancelled last-minute on my colleague, so conversation is moot point. She’s a no-go.

                  My question is simply whether “flaky” behavior should be called out more deliberately (many readers say yes!) , and that more subtle question of whether I came off as less senior/less important/essential to the conversation.

              2. Hrovitnir*

                Thank you for this comment. Even if my feeling is something wasn’t motivated by (conscious or unconscious) bias, I wish it was possible to say that you think it was involved without an explosion of defensiveness.

                Not to mention how often it’s a really common microaggression where plausible deniability is kind of built-in: just because it’s not super blatant doesn’t mean it’s not real.

            2. BuildMeUp*

              See, I think this falls into the trap of “we need to get absolutely all the facts before we can even begin to consider that this might be sexism.” It’s a fairly classic thing that happens in discussions about sexism, especially microaggressions, and it prevents problems from being addressed because people can pretend they have the moral high ground and say a behavior isn’t sexist unless it’s proven without a shadow of a doubt, which really isn’t possible in this kind of situation. And it often discounts the experiences of the women involved.

              1. LBK*

                Agreed with this. There’s a tendency to push bias way down to the bottom of the possible explanations rather than considering it an equal possibility to any other possibility – all other explanations must be exhausted and disproven before we’re “allowed” to think about it being sexism. I think most of this stems from what I was saying above: that people want to believe they aren’t sexist and therefore are unwilling to consider whether they might have sexist biases.

            3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

              I don’t think we need an ironclad case to prove that there was sexism. Most of society (self-included) has a lot of implicit biases and embedded sexist behavior. I don’t think anyone, let alone OP, is raising the possibility in a cavalier way. I think folks are just acknowledging that sexism is a viable reason for how this communication unfolded (it’s not the only answer, but I don’t think you have to assume malice or bad intent to believe sexism could have been a factor).

            4. oranges & lemons*

              It doesn’t seem particularly likely to me that the candidate just decided that the OP is unimportant because she’s a woman and that it’s not worth taking the time to interview with her–perhaps this is what some people are imagining when the OP labels it as sexist. What I think is more plausible is that the candidate got mixed up and was led to believe that the OP’s role was more administrative because of the genders of everyone involved. I would still call that sexist, but not really inflammatory. I wouldn’t even necessarily say that it reflects badly on the candidate, because it’s such a common assumption to make. (However I don’t think the situation says anything very good about the candidate’s attention to detail.)

              1. LBK*

                I don’t think people are suggesting it was such a conscious train of thought or even that the candidate thought the OP was an admin. Rather, when a candidate knows a man and a woman are on equal footing, people often express bias in treating the man as the more important decision maker. See: Alison’s example of candidates who address their answers entirely to the male interviewer, even if the woman outranks or if she’s the one who asked the question.

                In this case, it’s plausible that once the other boss’s scheduling concern was raised, that gave the candidate a kind of tunnel vision about working out her schedule with him and making sure that timing worked for the OP as well just kind of fell by the wayside. None of this is necessarily intentional, but it happens this way more than it happens when the genders are reversed, because people are socialized to think of the man as the decision-maker and then the woman will just kind of figure it out or follow suit.

                1. oranges & lemons*

                  Oh, that’s what I meant as well. I agree that it’s more likely to have been implicit bias on the candidate’s part than conscious sexism, but I’m not sure that that’s what everyone thinks of when they hear the word “sexist.”

        2. Mookie*

          And the most inflammatory.

          Yes, well, criticizing people when they mess up and naming the bad behavior often makes those people angry and defensive. So what? Having your behavior characterized as sexist is not worse than being on the receiving end of sexism.

      1. Raina*

        It seems hard to rule out entirely, and I’m pretty sure this forum would have a ruthless position on this if the candidate were a man. I haven’t been active in the movement for decades but am acutely aware of seemingly silly things very much like this email example.

    3. Optimistic Prime*

      Sexism isn’t always malicious. It’s often unconscious and done with the best of intentions. It’s also a super simple explanation since it’s embedded into the social fabric of our lives.

    4. Taylor Swift*

      “I don’t think we should jump to malice or sexism when there’s a much simpler explanation”

      I sort of understand what you’re saying. But to say there’s a simpler explanation when sexism is soooo insidious and prevalent is pretty dismissive. If something looks sexist, there’s a really decent chance that it is.

  4. Corvid*

    OP, I’m sorry that happened to you. You’re entirely justified in feeling enraged over this.

    I’m ashamed to admit that I once mistook a partner for a receptionist (which she didn’t realize, because I didn’t act any differently). I also consider myself a feminist and have been on the receiving end of pretty awful sexism countless times. I’m seconding Allison here. Unfortunately, biases often guide our behavior subtly and after a lifetime of learning a specific thought pattern, they can be difficult to eliminate entirely. I would advocate mentioning the misconception to the job candidate – most likely she’ll be mortified and act differently in the future.

    1. Specialk9*

      Yeah, me too! I know she doesn’t want to, but it can’t hurt to give the LW a heads up. None of us start out knowing how we may be perceived. A quick “You’re at the beginning of your career, so I wanted to let you know that we decided against you, despite a good resume and cover letter, because you cancelled your interview last minute, and because you treated a female partner as an admin. Best of luck to you.”

    2. Tomato Frog*

      Yup. I’ve caught myself addressing myself to men rather than women when meeting male + female pairs in certain contexts. It’s gross, I’ve worked on it. Every time someone says they’re not sexist or racist my first thought is that they’re just not introspective.

      I don’t know if the OP should make a point of saying “You’ve treated a female partner differently from a male one!” but I think it’s worth letting the candidate know that actually she was the one interested in hiring…. and let the candidate’s conscience condemn her as appropriate.

  5. Jessie the First (or second)*

    Yeah, I am with the ones thinking this is not a situation where you should assume sexism – and I am really well aware of how subtle it can be.

    But think about it – her interview was with partner B. Why should she assume that someone other than partner B is the person she should reschedule with? She would be assuming, and very reasonably, that partner B is the one she is supposed to interview with. Because that is who she was scheduled to meet. And you tell her that partner B is out and to take the lead in rescheduling – so, that seems like a cue, to me, that partner B is really busy so likely easiest just to figure it all out with him. Unless you thought she was supposed to reschedule and interview with you instead? But did you tell her that?

    I just…. I read this and felt like this candidate was following your lead and your cues. It isn’t about title – in fact, if she saw you were partner, I would not be surprised if she thought to herself that it would be silly to make you the middle person in arranging the interview, because you of course are busy.

    I mean, was she supposed to interview at this rescheduled interview with you? And id you *tell* her that?

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      Oh wait! By scheduling with the male colleague, did you mean all 3 of you? I read it as just having scheduled an interview with candidate and colleague – not candidate, colleague, and you. If it was all 3 of you, and she knew that, then yes, that’s… that’s really obnoxious.

      1. Triangle Pose*

        “By scheduling with the male colleague, did you mean all 3 of you?”


        Even in this letter it’s totally unclear to me that LW made this disctintion to the candidate.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        Was that made explicitly clear to the candidate, though? If so many of us can’t figure it out from the OP’s letter, I have to wonder whether OP clearly communicated to the candidate that she needed to schedule an interview with BOTH OP and her colleague.

        1. shep*

          Yeah, I can see *myself* being really nervous and wanting to make a good impression, and perhaps assuming that OP was basically saying she was bowing out of the interview process and I would be interviewing with the colleague instead. An incredibly unfortunate misinterpretation (if that’s the case).

          But I also, barring extreme crisis, would never reschedule an interview to begin with.

          1. Steve*

            Maybe it was fortunate if one of the job responsibilities would have been “read the OP’s mind.”

        2. Kate*

          This is what I’m wondering too. It’s definitely weird (and rude!) to cut out one of your interviewers, but when I’m told to “take the lead” in getting in touch with a busy colleague, it usually means, “you two figure this out without me.” If the applicant was unclear for some reason that the interview was supposed to be with *both* OP and the colleague, I can see her interpreting it as, “don’t bother OP with this.”

        3. (Different) Rebecca*

          I completely read it as OP coordinating an interview with Partner B and applicant, not OP coordinating an interview with herself, Partner B, and applicant.

          Perhaps there could be a follow up with the OP to get a better sense of what was in the email? Paraphrasing isn’t cutting it here…

        1. Triangle Pose*

          LW actually said she sent the candidate a note that said that “in short.” The next sentence says “We scheduled this with my male colleague.” Then on top of that she said to “take the lead” in rescheduling which makes candidate think LW doesn’t want to be involved/in the middle of the scheduling. On balance, I don’t think LW was clear with the candiate to begin with.

      2. Us, Too*

        That is not how I interpreted OP’s letter. I assumed when she said “We scheduled this with my my colleague” she meant that she and the candidate arranged for the candidate to meet with her colleague. I really think that the wording of whatever happened between OP and the candidate may be part of the issue here. (I’m a woman and couldn’t figure out what was sexist even after re-reading the letter FOUR TIMES. I had to come to the comments to realize that the original meeting is assumed to have included OP.)

        1. Mookie*

          Well, it wasn’t “assumed,” it was explicitly arranged with the applicant this way. The OP may not have explained that clearly here, but the applicant wasn’t expected to assume something or read minds; she was sought out by the OP for a three-person meeting, which she then cancelled at the last minute.

      3. General Ginger*

        I’m not sure that’s clear from the letter. I didn’t even realize the interview was with both partners until I read the comments — from the OP’s letter, it seemed to me like the interview was only with partner B.

  6. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’m more bugged by the fact that your male colleague doesn’t want her because she tried to reschedule and not because she cut you out altogether.

    1. MsM*

      I’m mostly just confused why he’s wasting both his and the applicant’s time by going through with the interview if he doesn’t intend for it to go anywhere. Why not just say they’ve decided to go in another direction and call the whole thing off?

      1. Managing to get by*

        Even better, actually write her off rather than just mentally. Tell her your pursuing other candidates and leave it at that. The drama ends there.

      2. Statix*

        I dunno, the candidate cancelled at just past 6am on the day, it’s entirely possible she gave a vague reason for the cancellation and was planning to expand up on it during the second interview.

        I personally would have given the reason for the cancellation in case it was assumed I wasn’t committed/didn’t have a solid reason, to give myself the best chance of getting a second shot. But if it was something really personal and difficult to explain I can see a candidate thinking it’s best to just steer clear rather than go into detail about something awkward and personal (and make it look like you have too much drama going on to start a new job).

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    I’m not 100% sure this is sexism, although I see a different reason this doesn’t look great for the candidate.

    It’s not clear to me from the letter: Was it made clear to the candidate that she was supposed to meet with BOTH OP and her colleague? Or that she should meet with EITHER OP or her colleague? If the former, then yes, there could be sexism going on. But if it wasn’t explicitly stated, I read the letter as saying that the initial interview was scheduled between OP’s colleague and the candidate — in which case I think it’s a reasonable assumption for the candidate to think that OP’s colleague is going to be the one interviewing her, and colleague’s schedule has some limitations, so candidate should figure things out with the interviewer directly rather than a bunch of back-and-forth.

    That being said, what doesn’t look good to me is the quick cancellation, unless the candidate was apologetic and gave a reason for changing things around so quickly. I’d wonder whether this person is a flake.

    1. Sadsack*

      Yeah, I definitely would have made a phone call to follow up regarding cancellation, if at all possible. Maybe it wasn’t possible.

  8. The Cosmic Avenger*

    When I saw that the candidate canceled on such short notice, the very first thing I wondered is whether they apologized and explained. The OP didn’t mention either of those, and to me those are key as to whether the candidate would even receive another chance. If the apology is sincere and they at least (even generally and vaguely) explain that something family or health related (or similarly important and unpredictable) came up, I would probably give them another chance, but I don’t see any mention of those requisite parts of the cancellation!

  9. Infinity Anon*

    Why offer to reschedule at all if neither of you were interested in hiring her after she canceled? It seems like a waste of time.

    1. Snarkus Aurelius*

      I loathe courtesy interviews probably because I’ve done so many of them. I’ve never reschedules one though.

      If you don’t want her, don’t waste your time.

    2. LBK*

      It sounds like she was pretty great on paper, so she’d potentially still be worth interviewing just to confirm if the cancellation thing was a fluke.

    3. blackcat*

      Could be that the flaking was not a deal breaker to OP (who suggested rescheduling), but was to Partner. Partner felt obligated to do *something* because OP had communicated a future interview to Ms. Flake. Partner did not wish to waste OPs time in involving OP once again, since he was already planning to veto.

      Either way, Partner fails at communicating.

  10. lbiz*

    I think you’re reading too much into this; your instructions were unclear and it’s not surprising that she didn’t read your mind accurately. Titles are different at every organization so it shouldn’t be on her to assume you’re at equal status with your colleague, especially after you implied that his schedule was more important because you were working around it. But also, your colleague should have looped you back in once she emailed him. You should talk with him about refining your hiring process since it seems vague all around.

    Also, next time, don’t be so vague with candidates about how the scheduling process works. “Take the lead to reschedule” isn’t a normal part of a hiring process and I’m sure the candidate spent a while trying to figure out what to do. Just be more direct and then you won’t be upset when someone doesn’t guess correctly.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      If one person is out of the office next week, that doesn’t mean they are “more important.” It just means they’re gone.

      1. Anion*

        But OP can’t/won’t meet with the candidate because B is away, so that makes it seem like he’s the one who *needs* to be there (and thus is the more important one for the candidate to meet).

        Otherwise, why couldn’t OP just meet with her alone, and then set up a meeting with B if that original one goes well?

        1. LBK*

          Convenience of getting the interview done in one session instead of making the candidate come back again?

          1. Anion*

            Of course, but I’m just explaining why that wording might make someone think that B is the person they’re really supposed to meet with/that B has the ultimate say/that B is the more important one in this scenario.

            1. LBK*

              If I were supposed to meet with two people, had to reschedule and was told that one of the people was out on vacation for a week, in no way would I take that to mean that that person’s presence is the only one that matters and that the other person didn’t need to be at the rescheduled meeting. It means I need to meet with both of them, and one of them isn’t available for a time, so we’ll have to reschedule for after that time when both of them will be available. I just don’t buy this explanation at all, it’s never how any meeting I’ve rescheduled has worked.

              I have had times where we’re struggling to find a new time where everyone can meet and then someone says “you two just meet and I’ll catch up with Joe to get the details later” but that’s after going back and forth trying to coordinate schedules a little, not as soon as one obstacle comes up.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          But OP can’t/won’t meet with the candidate because B is away, so that makes it seem like he’s the one who *needs* to be there (and thus is the more important one for the candidate to meet).

          I would have interpreted that as “we both need to meet with you,” not “B needs to meet with you and I am optional.”

          1. Ellie*

            I disagree too – I don’t think you were unclear at all. Even if she thought she was (potentially) now only meeting with your colleague, why would she cut you out of the communications? She was taking a huge risk that she wouldn’t be able to contact/get a reply out of the less available partner, when you were right there ready to talk. It’s very weird/naive behaviour at best, and almost certainly has a sexist element to it. But given she flaked anyway, I really wouldn’t worry about it. If you contact her now, she might think she can suggest a new time with you, which would be pretty awkward.

          2. LJL*

            yeah, that’s how I’d take it too. I have very seldom ever interviewed with only one person, so I’d assume that it would need to be the 3..especially if they both had partner in their title. This is a time I wish we could talk to the interviewee!

        3. Toph*

          I disagree, it says to me that they *both* need to be there and since he can’t that week, that week is out. It does not convey greater importance to his presence, just that his presence is required. It does not convey relative importance between the two managers to me.

      2. Leenie*

        True. But then OP might have said, “My schedule is open, but Partner is out quite a bit. Please find a time that works for both of you.” With either an implied or expressed, “And I’ll make that time work for me.” By only mentioning her partner’s schedule and telling the applicant to “take the lead” I think it’s reasonable for the applicant to infer that OP is stepping out of the process – regardless of her gender or stature. It’s not the only reasonable inference, but it is one possibility. I think OP and Partner should work on how they’re communicating to each other and to other people.

    2. (the reader who asked this question)*

      Your note is totally fair: she definitely had room for interpretation which, I think led her to schedule with my colleague solo.
      Thanks for your input.

  11. Jay*

    Did I mis-interpret the letter? It said re. the interview ‘we scheduled this with a male colleague’ and I read this as between the prospect and the male. Was the OP supposed to be in the interview too? If not then I don’t see it as weird at all that of course the prospect would go ahead and re-schedule with the person who was going to be interviewing with her in the first place, especially since it was his schedule that appeared difficult to begin with given his travel. It doesn’t come across to me as sexist.

    1. Ophelia Bumblesmoop*

      That’s how I understood it as well, but Allison confirmed in another comment that the male colleague was joining the OP and candidate.

    2. Random*

      No. She meant that she scheduled the interview with both of them. Why would she be upset she wasn’t in the interview?

    3. JulieBulie*

      ” ‘we scheduled this with a male colleague’ and I read this as between the prospect and the male. ”

      To me, “we” means OP and prospect. So it is OP and prospect with the male colleague.

      1. KP84*

        This how I interpreted it as well and it kind of surprises me how many people are interpreting it to mean “between the prospect and male colleague” only.

  12. B*

    On one hand I agree that it sounds like the candidate knew it was a three person interview. And then for some reason decided it was a two person interview. And so it’s reasonable to suspect sexism in the confusion.

    And at the same time, I once had a job interview with a man and his two female colleagues. They never said that the hiring manager was the male and that the female would be the person I was reporting to. So I was very confused for the first few months before I figured it out.

    1. MsM*

      Because if LW’s wording was sufficiently ambiguous to confuse people who’ve also experienced and are sensitive to subtle forms of sexism, it’s worth considering there’s another explanation here. And since this candidate isn’t getting hired – unless the male colleague does walk away from the interview completely charmed, which is a separate problem – LW’s better off focusing on what she can do differently if there is a next time. That can include making sure that male colleague knows to say “LW needs to be involved in this discussion; she was the one who initially pushed to have you brought in,” but it should also probably include making it crystal clear what “take the lead” means in this context.

    2. Sadsack*

      Because OP has no way of knowing for sure if that was the reason, at least based on the info provided. Based on OP’s description, I can see where the interviewee might have been confused about what she was being told to do. Not sure what actually happened here.

    3. Managing to get by*

      Because the LW saying “go ahead and take the lead on scheduling the interview” could have been interpreted as the LW stepping out of the process entirely, depending on the actual wording and context of the whole email thread. The candidate replying back “I’ll contact him directly” could have been her simply confirming what she was to do next, since being told to schedule your own interview is not a common practice. The LW was not direct, and then read intent into the candidates interpretation of what she had been asked to do.

    4. Mazzy*

      Well if he op knows 100 percent that that was the cause of the miscommunication, then there was no reason to write in, the fact that the wrote in shows that they are questioning it.

  13. JaneB*

    I’m confused see about it people are finding “take the lead” confusing – i understood that immediately to mean that OP was asking the candidate to email their availability to both interviewers once Fergus was back in town and ensure that a mutually convenient time was found. I also interpreted the letter as saying that OP did this as she felt the candidate might not be seriousand was using it as a test of their follow-through (and to save OP having to keep track of and chase a disinterested candidate). Can anyone explain why other readers were confused? Is “take the lead” not a phrase used in the US?

    1. Jessie the First (or second)*

      That is a phrase that is used. It’s a combination of things that led to commenters’ confusion.

      Some of us, myself included, thought on first read that the initial (canceled) interview was with the candidate and the colleague – and *not* the OP. And so, if that is the case, then the applicant taking the lead on scheduling would look like what happened – contacting colleague directly. But on second read and seeing other comments, I am seeing that the initial interview was with candidate, colleague, and OP, and so candidate should have arranged the interview with both OP and colleague.

      1. Leenie*

        I’m familiar with the phrase and wasn’t unclear that all three people were supposed to be in the first meeting. I think the phrase “take the lead” coupled with OP only mentioning the partner’s schedule is where the lack of clarity came in. The applicant followed up with what her interpretation/intent was (and made it pretty clear that she thought the OP was stepping out of the process). Instead of taking the opportunity to clarify, the OP let the situation unfold without her input or guidance. I have no idea why her partner didn’t clue her in.

        Most of us have been on the receiving end of unconscious sexism, even from other women. But that’s far from the only interpretation here.

    2. Kelly L.*

      It’s a phrase that’s used, but I’d be somewhat unsure of how to apply that phrase to this situation.

    3. Roscoe*

      It’s used, but the context of this is ambiguous. If you say “Take the lead in rescheduling with John” then to me it seems like I am just working with John. It doesn’t seem that I need to keep including you in this. But it could also mean, “John has the more complex schedule, so please send both of us your available times”. Either is plausible here. But if you don’t know which one its supposed to mean, than just assuming the worst one seems harsh

      1. LBK*

        I like this summary, and I think you make a good point – that in the case of ambiguity, I think it’s better to err on the side of assuming the person you were talking to originally is supposed to included and have them say “Oh, you’ll actually just be interviewing with John” then to proceed the way it played out here.

      2. Samata*

        I commented above that candidate should have CC’d but your comment has me feeling that either interpretation could have been the “worst” – depending on the desired outcome of OP.

        If candidate thought OP mean “take the lead in rescheduling, I’m out” and CC’d her then OP would think “I told her to stop bother me, she can’t take direction”. So candidate chose to not include her and OP thinks “Why would she leave me out when I’m integral”

        When it’s not clear it can be a case of choosing what you think is right and then hoping it’s the right choice.

    4. LBK*

      It is a phrase here, but it’s kind of weird in this context. It’s usually used more in the way of following someone’s example, and in this case it’s kind of open-ended in terms of instructing the candidate how to proceed. If I were writing this email, I’d just explicitly say “It sounds like you have some scheduling issues this week and Joe’s out next week, so why don’t you let us know what times work for you the week after and then we can coordinate.” Just saying “why don’t you take the lead” doesn’t ask for a specific deliverable.

    5. Triangle Pose*

      Because it doesn’t make sense to say that in this context.

      Someone above made this point best “when I’m told to “take the lead” in getting in touch with a busy colleague, it usually means, “you two figure this out without me.” If the applicant was unclear for some reason that the interview was supposed to be with *both* OP and the colleague, I can see her interpreting it as, “don’t bother OP with this.”

    6. Falling Diphthong*

      I, also, immediately took it to mean “If you want to follow up on this, then you need to suggest a time to meet with us. Jack is traveling next week, so that won’t work.” And was confused as to why people were confused. So confusion reins in many directions.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        That’s how I took it at first (though I found “take the lead” to be a confusing way to say that), but the more comments I read, the more I realize it’s not that clear after all.

  14. Hiring Mgr*

    My reading on this one:

    1) Interview was meant to be with all three (though there does seem to be some confusion on that based on responses)
    2) Cancellation in and of itself not a huge deal, happens in interviews from time to time..
    3) “Take the lead” would mean that the candidate should be the one suggesting the next dates/times
    4) Even if candidate thought OP was a scheduler and not an interviewer, common sense would be to still include OP in rescheduling emails going forward
    5) If male partner was so turned off by the cancellation, why was he going to waste time on the rescheduling?
    6) Any update?

  15. Cobol*

    I love the commentators here, but do think there’s a tendency to jump to sexism unfairly.

    That being said, I think it’s really fair to infer sexism here.

    OP, at bare minimum it seems like candidate is good on paper, but not the right fit (cancellation, saying she’d work directly with the other partner, not noticing/ignoring your title and influenced)

    1. Corvid*

      I love the commentators here, but do think there’s a tendency to jump to sexism unfairly.

      Really? I usually find the comments to be pretty well balanced and realistic.

      1. Cobol*

        We trend liberal. I am liberal, so I agree with a lot of it, but there is always group think. I believe Alison actually noted it a while back, although don’t remember the details.

    2. Mike C.*

      Well, sexism is a deep, complex and systemic issue. Bringing it up, even in ambiguous cases is much, much better than ignoring it. It doesn’t matter where you stand politically, it affects people all the same.

    3. Eve*

      Are you a man or a woman? Sexism is so ingrained in the work place (I would argue even more so in lawyer than many other fields) that it is hard to not see the sexism more if you are a woman.

      1. Cobol*

        I’m a man, and this comment is why I think we overstate. It is pevasive, but there have been a ton of letters where the focus is on sexism, not the question the OP wrote. Autism is also overly discussed.

        I’m not saying this instance isn’t (I said the opposite. It was literally the point of my comment.) I’m not saying it’s not a huge problem. I’m saying this is a liberally leaning site, and as such we tend to over diagnose liberal issues.

        1. Corvid*

          Frankly, is it for you to decide whether sexism is overly discussed? I’ve responded to your original comment because I’ve heard many others like it – most often from men who interpret a dog whistle literally because they haven’t personally experienced the hundred of other times the term was used. One person sees a subtle dig or attempt at discrimination; another sees someone jumping to conclusion and sexism being “unfairly” invoked.

          Sexism is a pretty big deal in any culture, and women have been discriminated in the workforce for a long time. I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the effect of sexism, and while the job candidate might have been plain absent-minded or excluded the OP for other and more benign reasons, it’s certainly fair to discuss her actions as sexist ones.

          For what it matters, it gets my hackles up when a guy says, “enough with the sexism, you’re seeing ghosts!”, but I’ll leave it at that at this point. I do agree that the commentariat here are pretty like-minded (as in, leaning liberal), but I usually don’t find the spectrum of opinions to be lacking.

    4. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I find the literal opposite.

      Here we have a female LW, who writes in about an experience of sexism, and all but one of two of the top-level comments are variations on “Welllllll, are we really sure it’s sexism?”

      1. SWGl*

        I keep thinking about this, and it doesn’t sit right with me.
        If it were clear that the candidate thought that the OP was an admin/secretary and the commenters were trying to say THAT wasn’t sexist, making excuses for why the candidate might have thought that she was the secretary, suggesting that it was the OP’s fault the candidate thought she was the secretary, or telling the OP she was overreacting to the candidate’s assumption that she was the secretary… that would be bad. That would be questioning the OP’s experience of sexism.
        Even if the commenters were questioning the gap between “she thought the OP was the secretary” and “she thought that BECAUSE the OP is a woman,” that would be a denial of everyday sexism.
        But that’s not what’s going on in the comments. What we’re questioning is the big leap from “she said she would reschedule with him directly” to “she thought I was just the secretary.” There are just so many other ways that the candidate could have gotten confused or misunderstood the OP’s intention.
        If the candidate thought she was the secretary and tried to cut her out by going directly to Fergus, well, that sucks. That’s super sexist, demoralizing, and something we’re sympathetic to.
        If, however, the candidate genuinely thought that the OP meant for her to “take the lead” by rescheduling with Fergus directly, if she thought that the OP’s reference to Fergus’ schedule meant that she should check with him instead of her, if she thought that Fergus would continue to include the OP after she reached out to him directly, or if she thought the OP was stepping back from the process based on the wording in her email… all of those would be simple non-sexist misunderstandings.
        The phrase “take the lead” is a colloquialism. You really can’t make an argument that a colloquialism is completely clear. There are all sorts of ways the candidate could have interpreted that, particularly combined with the other details in the OP’s letter. Regardless, we should all know from reading this blog that job candidates are very often confused by the communication they get from employers.

        1. SWGl*

          So… we’re not questioning the OP’s experience of sexism so much as we’re questioning the premise that the candidate saying she would “reschedule with him directly” means that she thought the OP was an administrator/secretary.
          That would certainly be sexist, but that’s a quite a leap. It’s a big assumption about the candidate’s thinking. To a lot of the readers/commenters here, based on the details we’ve been given, it seems more likely that the candidate saying she would “reschedule with him directly” was actually a misunderstanding about the OP’s intention. It’s possible the candidate genuinely thought that contacting Fergus directly was what the OP wanted her to do. If that’s the case, then the candidate made a mistake, but she didn’t make a sexist assumption about the OP’s position based on her gender, she didn’t try to “usurp” her, and she didn’t intentionally “cut her out.”
          The sexism in the situation hinges on the motivation that the OP is ascribing to the candidate, and what we’re saying is that there are other possible interpretations of “reschedule directly with him” that don’t involve “because you’re just the admin.”

  16. Enough*

    I am finding that the information in this letter to be lacking. More specifics/details of what was actually said would be nice. There is a little too much ambiguity in how the information has been presented. What does “take the lead” mean?

  17. Consultant*

    I know that’s not the main point here, but late cancellations are sometimes the only possible cancellations.

    I got a bad cold 2 weeks ago. Unfortunately I had (long) job interviews scheduled for both Thursday and Friday. I thought I would make it, took plenty of medicine to get me through the cold faster. In the 3 days before the interview I felt sometimes better, sometimes worse, so I wasn’t sure whether I should cancel or not. The interviews involved travelling to the companies’ offices so rescheduling wouldn’t have been easy (hotels were already booked, etc.).

    I didn’t cancel. Instead I did very badly. With a heavy cold, I wasn’t able to present myself well. I wish I had cancelled in the last moment.

  18. Mazzy*

    Wait, the person circumvented you so you wouldn’t have to do the Admin work of scheduling the 2nd interview, and you think that is a sign that they think you are an Admin? Wouldn’t that lead them to reach out to you instead? Or maybe they saw your job title in your email and thought you were too high level to be scheduling meetings for your coworker?

    1. Woman*

      Yes, exactly! I don’t understand why people think the behavior meant the candidate was sexist in assuming the woman is an admin– I think the behavior means candidate assumes she was a partner, and therefore didn’t want to worsen her chances of landing the job by needlessly making the female partner take on administrative tasks! If LW told the candidate “you’re interviewing with male partner” and didn’t tell candidate that she would also be interviewing with LW, then told candidate to “take the lead” on rescheduling with male partner, then candidate did exactly what she was told!

  19. AnonToday*

    I agree that there is some ambiguity in the letter that makes me question if this was really sexism or truly a miscommunication. However, I do think the candidate loses points for not realizing who the OP is- could they not look the OP up on LinkedIn? Look for a job title in her email signature? I think that is poor research on the part of the interviewee.

    1. JulieBulie*

      I agree about the poor research, and the candidate also could have asked for clarification on the rescheduling if she was unsure of OP’s involvement/expectations. So that’s kind of a double-fail.

      In fact, that is why I am leaning towards sexism – because the candidate seems to have assumed that OP was less important than the other partner, as if it didn’t occur to her to even look at OP’s title. She didn’t bother asking questions or try to make a good impression with OP.

      1. AnonToday*

        Yeah they definitely should have been more invested in making a good impression on the OP. I just picture myself in this situation, and can see how it could get confusing with the cancellation and dealing with more than one person at the company, and think I could make a similar misstep without any ill intent at all. However, if someone said “I’d like to interview you”, I would assume they are the manager, not a scheduler/admin person. And I would have already looked them up online to see exactly who they are. Either way, sexism or misunderstanding, I still think the interviewee made some mistakes and I don’t blame OP for being turned off.

  20. Dangitmegan*

    If someone told me to take the lead to reschedule a meeting that I had to cancel I would 100% assume that meant they were taking themselves out of the conversation and situation. I’d assume that the cancellation had made her decide she wasn’t interested in interviewing me, but that I could contact her partner and see if he was still interested in talking.

    I feel like that candidate probably got the email, spent a lot of time trying to figure out what exactly you meant by that, and came to the conclusion that you meant to email him directly. I don’t really see sexism in this, more just confusion and a misunderstanding.

  21. Kelly L.*

    I’m going to add to the chorus of people who wouldn’t be sure what “take the lead” meant in this context.

    1. la bella vita*

      The more I think about it, the more it sounds like the candidate misinterpreted “take the lead” to mean “I don’t want to be involved in this process anymore.” I kind of wish the OP had replied with something like “that won’t be necessary, just let me know some times the week after next that will work for you and I’ll check to see if that lines up with Male Partner’s and my availability to bring you in to meet with both of us.”

      1. Kelly L.*

        I think that may be correct. And that definitely wouldn’t mean mistaking OP for an admin–an admin can’t just go “Nope, I’m washing my hands of this, email my boss instead.”

    2. Joe*

      I think take the “take the lead” meant “you canceled on us last minute, so I’m not going to give you options. You schedule it with us, I’m not going to risk you canceling again.”

  22. Cucumberzucchini*

    Another vote for the OP’s instructions being open to interruption. Especially since they were told to take the lead and given feedback that Male Partner was out of town the following week. The candidate could easily have thought well I’ll schedule with Male Partner and then he’ll communicate the date to Female Partner with zero intention of malice.

    What I don’t understand is, why even offer to reschedule? The interviewee cancelled last minute. Did they ask to be rescheduled? Or just cancel. If they said something like, “I’m so sorry I had a death in the family could we reschedule for XYZ day?” then offering to reschedule makes sense. But if they just canceled without requesting to reschedule I would have just ended it there. If they’re not interested enough to ask for a reschedule, why even open that door?

  23. Stop That Goat*

    There’s too much ambiguity in this to infer anything beyond a misunderstanding. I think a lot of this comes down to the exact words to the candidate when the OP said to take the lead on rescheduling.

    1. Working Hypothesis*

      Totally off topic, but I love your name.

      -That Goat (or at least *a* goat, by customary nickname)

  24. CMDRBNA*

    I don’t know if there’s enough evidence to assume malicious intent and/or sexism on the part of the candidate (but that being said, I know first-hand how insidious and subtle that kind of thing can be), but she candidate also handled it really badly. Cancelling two hours before an interview is bad enough, but taking a few days to get back to the OP and also somehow not noticing that the OP is a partner, not an admin?

    To me, those three things together speak of both sloppiness and lack of consideration for the OP’s time/a lack of seriousness about the job opening.

    If I were in the OP’s shoes I think I would have responded to the candidate’s email and let her know that I was part of the hiring authority, but at that point I think I’d also be ready to just not schedule an interview with her. I do think it’s kind of odd that the male partner did schedule an interview, especially knowing that it’s a waste of his time and a waste of the candidate’s time at this point. I don’t think he should have done that.

    That being said, the OP is using some really, really strong language – her “outrage”? The candidate “usurping her”? Trying to decide if she should “teach her a lesson”? Seriously?

    Believe me, I’m not dismissing subtle sexism because I think it’s corrosive and something that should be taken seriously, but I also think the OP is coming across like she has a gigantic chip on her shoulder. I think not proceeding with an interview with the candidate makes sense given her gaffes, but I also don’t think I’d want to work for someone who is reading this level of malevolence into someone’s actions right off the bat.

    I think the candidate could benefit from a straightforward response from the OP pointing out how she screwed up. Even if the OP WERE an admin, you can tell a lot by a candidate by how they treat everyone in an organization, not just someone they perceive as having authority.

    In sum, I think both the OP and the candidate may have dodged a bullet here.

      1. Steve*

        I’m not sure why the candidate is supposed to know from the job titles who is and isn’t included in the interview. I worked at a small employer where there was no receptionist, office manager, HR person, etc and so the VP of Teapot Engineering set up all the interviews. But, he didn’t actually do the interviews himself, the Teapot Engineers did them.

        1. CMDRBNA*

          Right? Which is why the candidate’s response is frankly kind of bizarre, but so is going ahead and scheduling a completely pointless interview with her anyway! When I started in my new job, I interviewed with someone that I rarely interact with now, but is the first step in the interview process. It would have been really weird for me to try to go over her head.

      2. CMDRBNA*

        The OP herself suggested that the candidate might have thought she was in admin in this sentence: Perhaps she thought I was performing an administrative role — in replying to her solicitation, in scheduling — but what candidate wouldn’t take care to notice a person’s job title?

        It’s entirely possible the candidate overlooked the OP’s title. It’s entirely possible the candidate interpreted the OP’s email to mean that the OP wasn’t involved in the hiring process. It’s entirely possible the candidate is a no-good, very-bad sexist who assumed the OP was an admin person because she was female. It’s entirely possible that the candidate was just sloppy and committed a faux pas. It’s entirely possible that the OP’s email to the candidate was confusing and the candidate thought she was following the OP’s instructions.

        However, the OP is never going to know what the candidate was thinking if she doesn’t follow up and point out that she is be part of the hiring process and the candidate made a mistake.

        I also find it bizarre that the OP’s colleague went ahead and scheduled an interview, thereby actually cutting the OP out of the hiring process anyway.

        If the candidate did something that rubbed the OP the wrong way, and obviously she did, the OP could just email her back and tell her that the OP isn’t interested in her anymore. Maybe someone who does something because of some sort of ingrained sexism isn’t the right person for this job, anyway, in which case the candidate just selected herself out.

        1. Stardust*

          Yeah, but just because the OP suggested that the candidate might have thought she’s an admin doesn’t mean the candidate _did_ actually think that, which is what Stop That Goat said.
          (I heartily agree with the rest of your comment but I did want to point that out since some people seem to be misreading that part.)

    1. Jay*

      I’m not seven sure that the prospect even thought the OP was an admin, or if this was OPs guess as to why the prospect contaged the male employee instead of her.

    2. Alice*

      If the candidate thought the OP were an admin, wouldn’t she have set up the meeting with the supposedly more important person through “his admin” instead of directly with him?

      1. Woman*

        Seconded. If anything, I think the candidate’s behavior means she knew the OP was not an admin and certainly not the male partner’s assistant.

    3. CyclistChick5*

      Yeah, the language in this letter came off really strange to me.

      Seems like this could have been cleared up by OP responding to the candidate right away, instead of being so “blown back” by perceived sexism. “You must have misunderstood me. Fergus and I both need to be included in the interview.”

      It’s so easy for miscommunications to happen over email. Seems like the easiest route would be to address the issue head on.

  25. Meg*

    Sexism. If there was confusion, the assumption and conclusion was still based on sexism. I’d be pissed too.

    1. Meg*

      And people don’t have to INTEND to be sexist to take sexist actions. I’m not calling the interviewee a ~~BAD PERSON~~. Just a person who made sexist assumptions and acted on them.

      1. CMDRBNA*

        Exactly! Which is sounds like the OP wouldn’t want to work with, which means she just selected herself out of the position – which is a GOOD thing.

      2. Specialk9*

        Right, but sometimes people attribute -ism when it’s really reaction to their own behavior. A long ago co-worker was desperately rude to every woman in the office, even the other women of color, but was positive that everyone was out to get her because she was black. No, lady, everyone hates you because you’re a jerk! (And sexist.)

        1. Meg*

          This is true, but derailing. There may be an explanation that is not sexism. Nonetheless, the most likely explanation is sexism. Again, even if there were mistakes on the OP’s part, there was a leap made that was most likely guided by sexist presumptions. Nitpicking the narrative to find any possible reason why it is not is, frankly, like saying you don’t trust the OP to understand what she’s doing.

          We’ve had some real dunces as LWs here, but any mistakes here by the OP are so tiny that it’s missing the point to focus on them while ignoring the more obvious explanation.

          1. CMDRBNA*

            This kind of stuff is SO frustrating, because I’ve been in the position of being like “So and so did X and it was sexist” and have someone tie themselves into a pretzel trying to point out all the ways it might not have been. And I hate that I feel like I’m doing that, because it’s infuriating when it happens to me! So I definitely DO believe the OP when she says that she thinks this was sexism on the candidate’s part. Sometimes it is sexism! And the OP doesn’t owe the candidate an interview.

        2. CMDRBNA*

          Based on some of the OP’s language, it definitely sounds like that might be happening here. Yes, often sexism is subtle and I have been on the receiving end of that kind of sexism (people assuming I’m the secretary, asking me to do stuff like organize the office party when it makes no sense for me to be doing it, etc.). And maybe the candidate is making a sexist assumption based on the OP’s gender. Who knows? The candidate goofed, don’t go any further in the hiring process with her.

          If the OP did want to call out the candidate’s behavior, she could – she’s choosing not to. In her place I might have sent an email asking the candidate if she thought I was an admin and pointing out that she was incorrect, which is some feedback that might actually help in making her realize her assumption (IF in fact there was an assumption in the first place).

        3. KJDubreuil*

          Yes! I had an employee like that. She was a woman of color in a mostly white office. However, every single little thing ‘had’ to be about her color. From the off hand comments that her cash drawer always had to have a perfect count so that ‘the man wouldn’t haul her black a** away’ to the ‘how come you are writing me up for tardiness, ‘everyone else’ is always tardy and you don’t write them up, must be because you are racist.’ Every single little thing. I was so grateful when she resigned.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      I disagree. There are plenty of examples above of why the OP’s statements could have been confusing that don’t rely on sexism at all. And none of them are a stretch, IMHO.

  26. The Pink Lady*

    I have to say that I read this exactly as Alison did; it seemed clear to me that the interview first set up was with both OP and Fergus, and that the candidate ignored this in rescheduling. I’d have been furious with my male colleague if he’d done this to me, and would have made sure he knew why it was wrong not to refer back to me in the scheduling. I have been involved in a comparable situation, where I was interviewing candidates for an opening on my team, and the panel consisted of me and a male colleague two grades below me whom I managed, and who would be the peer of the person recruited to our open post. We saw one woman who insisted on addressing all her answers to him, with much smiling and hair twiddling, even when I had asked the questions, and who seemed very surprised when she asked a question about team structure at the end and found I was her prospective manager. This was only one of the issues we had with her performance at interview, and she wasn’t made an offer. It’s really sad that this kind of thing is still happening, especially when the perpetrator is female.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      Right? So in that case the interview worked the way it was supposed to – as in, you learned something about the candidate that you didn’t like and you didn’t hire her. Which it sounds like is exactly what happened with the OP and this particular candidate.

      I just don’t get why they’re going ahead and interviewing her anyway.

      1. The Pink Lady*

        Oh yes, I agree I learned something about her. But it’s frustrating to have to keep fighting the same battles to overcome inherent sexism in the workplace, especially when it’s displayed by other women.

        People do have emergencies on interview day, though, so under normal circumstances I’d be sympathetic to a request to reschedule if the reason was good enough. What would get major side-eye from me is the circumventing of my place in the process, both by the candidate and my colleague.

  27. Roscoe*

    So I’m definitely someone who doesn’t necessarily notice people’s titles in their email signitures. And I can see how if I emailed the person who contacted me in order to schedule reschedule, and they said that “John can’t do next week”, it could seem like John is the one who will be doing the interview. It’s hard to really say how big of a thing this was without knowing exactly how everything was worded.

    But I agree with Alison that your co-worker should have made it clear that you BOTH were part of the interview process. She could have made an innocent mistake, but he let it go.

    1. Specialk9*

      When you want a job with a company and get an interview, you would ignore titles in the actual email to you, and not even go to LinkedIn to look them up? I gotta say, if that’s really how you operate, you’re doing it wrong.

  28. Stellaaaaa*

    If I had to cancel an interview at the last minute and my contact at the company (seemingly) refused to reschedule me and instead told me to figure it out myself, my first move would be to reach out to the interviewer who hadn’t “spoken” to me in that manner. There’s a whiff of, “Ugh, just figure it out yourself then” in “take the lead with scheduling” and that’s alienating.

    1. MsM*

      I am honestly kind of surprised the candidate didn’t just bow out of the process at that point. Maybe LW should rethink continuing to move forward in any capacity with candidates whose sincerity she feels the need to test in future.

        1. MsM*

          “I suggested she “take the lead” in rescheduling, assuming her initial interest wasn’t sincere.”

          I could be misreading, but to me, that says “I wasn’t sure she wanted the job, and didn’t expect her to put in the effort to prove me wrong.” Which is a perfectly reasonable thing to assume when someone cancels at the last minute, but then why bother trying to reschedule at all?

    2. LBK*

      People are busy and juggling your schedule to fit in time to dedicate to interview can be a huge pain. If you cancel at the last minute when I’ve already done what I need to do to accommodate you, I don’t want to deal with a bunch of back and forth to do this again. You just tell me what works for you and if it works for me, great, otherwise maybe I just need to move on.

    3. Joielle*

      I think that’s where I land too. It’s so out of the ordinary to be told to “take the lead” in scheduling your own job interview with people you’ve never met that I’d think the OP was annoyed with me and didn’t want to deal with the situation anymore. I hope OP will ask for more details from her male colleague and send us an update (e.g. What did the candidate say to him when she emailed him to reschedule?).

      Also, I’m definitely one to notice and call out subtle forms of sexism, but this one is so UN-subtle that it seems like there might be an alternative explanation. Maybe a clarifying email to the candidate would have been in order. Just something like “Sounds good – my schedule is pretty open the week that [male colleague] returns from vacation, so just let me know what day and time you settle on. I look forward to meeting you.”

    4. Hedwig*

      I agree, but I would expect to be on the receiving end of some alienation if I canceled an interview on such short notice.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Intentionally alienating someone with the hope that they self-select out is passive-aggressive and generally not an okay way to go about hiring.

        To be clear, I don’t expect to have the option to reschedule, but if my interviewer dwells on my cancellation beyond asking what happened, or seems to be openly trying to dissuade me from continuing, I take those behaviors as a clue-by-four, decide they’d probably be terrible to work for and gtf out of their process.

      2. Stellaaaaa*

        I wouldn’t expect to have the option if rescheduling, which is fine. It’s the fact that OP offered the appearance of the opportunity but then wrapped it up in a test of sincerity…she expected the candidate to drop out of the process and us annoyed that the candidate just decided not to interact with her after that. When you’re difficult and unpleasant, people will cut you out of email chains.

  29. Anon for Sure*

    I believe there was sexism here, but on the part of the male partner. Not necessarily the candidate.

    While it wouldn’t surprise me if sexism did come into play, I can see given the information presented how the candidate may have gotten confused and thought that the male partner’s schedule was the most important. I could see how someone not being careful and being impulsive would jump to that conclusion.

    What I don’t understand is why the male partner set up the interview. Why on earth didn’t he loop the OP back in? Why didn’t he say while this time works for me, we need to check with the OP?

    However, I also think it’s poor form of the candidate to not get clarification. I never assume who will be in a job interview. It’s the same reason you don’t be rude to the receptionist, because you never know who’s opinion will be asked about a candidate.

    1. CMDRBNA*

      That is what I’m baffled by – the OP is made at the candidate for what very could have been her trying to follow some ambiguous instructions, but she’s not mad at her male coworker who went ahead and cut her out of the hiring process by scheduling this interview in the first place?

  30. Not So NewReader*

    Let’s go with this, let’s say we are 200% certain that this was a sexist response. It seems like the story arrives at the same place, she does not get hired.

    I think it’s more to the point to say when we want something done a particular way, then we should do it ourselves. When we say, “take the lead” we are abdicating our say in matters. You gave up your say in what happens next, OP.

    I have been working for over 35 years and one thing I have learned is to be careful about giving up my ability/right to put in my two cents. I know many folks, including women get crapped on out there. But I also know that as a job hunter, I would have done what this woman did. I would have assumed for whatever reason OP was telling me that her colleague was the decision maker and I needed to track him down.

    After working for a while, I learned to ask questions. In this case, I might say, “Do you want me to schedule with Bob and let you know the available times we decided on and then you can pick one?” I also know that this question comes with risks, I have gotten my head bitten off for asking a seemingly redundant question such as this. Sorry but the request is too ambiguous for me to even intuitively guess what you expect me to do.

    I am willing to do what bosses ask, but I cannot do what they want if their want does not match their ask.
    In a similar vein, I have supervised enough people to know that people do NOT do what you want them to do, they do what you ASK them to do. If I had a dime for every time I said, “oh. right. You did what I asked you to do. And what I wanted was this Other Thing. This one is my fault.”

    Quite honestly, OP, if I had been this person (I wasn’t) I would have assumed you were still mad at me for canceling and you were stepping back from my hiring process because you had already decided you did not want me working at your place. Additionally Younger Me never would have had the strength to ask you to clarify your request.

    In the end, I would have decided that I probably would have not worked out for you because I would never be sure what you wanted me to do. And this has nothing to do with gender and everything to do with speaking clearly and directly.

    It’s been an expensive lesson in my live to remember/learn to hang on to my stake in what is going on around me. People read everything as “letting go”, so speaking directly is the only cure. “I want you to connect with Bob, find three dates and send them to me. I will pick which one works for me and let the two of you know.” This is super clear, the person knows exactly want to do.

    1. Madame X*

      This right here. It all comes down to clear communication. I’m sure that the candidate already felt like she was walking on egg shells because she cancelled her initial interview last minute. Clearly, asking the OP for clarification on the rescheduling process would have been better than what she did. However, I can also see that she may have been too anxious to ask the OP for fear of seeming even more incompetent.

    2. New Commenter*

      This is my first time commenting on AAM, but I want you to know your comment is excellent.

  31. Audiophile*

    In my many years of interviews (it sometimes felt endless,) it was often hard to tell who would be included in actual interview just based on the chain of emails. Often times, I was surprised to find out the person I thought was the scheduler was actually currently performing the role and I would be their replacement. Or sometimes, none of the people who emailed or were CC’d ended up being involved in the interview.

    This is all to say that sometimes from the candidates side, it can be difficult to know who is in “in charge” and needs to be included when replying.

    But I would definitely be unsure about how to interpret “you take the lead”. I recently had an interviewer ask me to give dates and times I was available during a given week, only for them to come back and say “none of those work for us. Here’s what does.” This occurred over several emails, so it sounded like they knew what dates and times worked for them and I was left confused as to why I had been asked to provide options.

    Now, it does seem like this OP is a direct person based on this letter. It’s still mystifying as to why Partner B left OP off the email chain with the candidate.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      Right. Why do you expect the person outside the company to know who needs to be invited to her interview? It almost sounds like she didn’t have enough gumption, because she didn’t take the lead in making sure all the appropriate people were invited to her interview. And she was penalized (by both the OP and the male partner) by not making sure that internal company communication worked properly.

      1. Mike C.*

        I figure that since the marginal cost of sending an email to more than one person is nothing, you just include everyone just in case. The worst thing that happens is someone gets an extra email.

        1. Anion*

          But when you’re job-hunting, you don’t want that person who gets the extra email to be like, “WHY does this person keep contacting me? Irritating, next candidate!”

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            If you’re replying to someone who reached out to you, I don’t think that’s a reasonable assumption.

            1. Anion*

              But it is, if the candidate thinks the person who reached out has now said to them, “You handle this with this other person, I’m out of it.”

              And we’ve seen plenty of people here who complain about overeager jobseekers or people who CC them on things they don’t need to be included in.

            2. Snorks*

              Really? We hear lots of stories on here about people who were passed over because they couldn’t follow directions.
              Emailed a resume instead of filling in the online tool? Gone
              Contacted the hiring manager when explicitly told not to? Trash pile

              1. Audiophile*

                Yeah, but I would put those situations in a different category.

                It doesn’t bode well if a candidate is seemingly trying to circumvent the processes in place. It’s different if there’s a history with the organization or a current employee. Otherwise, it likely just comes across as “I couldn’t be bothered to follow your instructions.”

  32. Madame X*

    The more I read this the more I am perplexed by everyone’s behavior in this letter.

    The OP emails the job candidate that she would like to interview her. OP, colleague B and candidate schedule interview for 8:00 Friday.
    (ok, so far so good. It’s clear to me that the OP wants to interview the candidate and has included colleague B to be part of the interview process)

    Candidate cancels interview 2 hours before scheduled time.
    (not a good look for the candidate, but perhaps there is a good reason)

    OP is already annoyed and now less excited to interview candidate but emails her to “take the lead” in rescheduling while also informing her that colleague B will be out of town the following week.
    (very strange wording. Job candidates don’t generally take the lead in scheduling their own interviews. I am inferring that the OP meant for the candidate to reschedule the interview at at more convenient to the candidate and that the OP and her colleague would match that up with their own availability. I really wish we could read the entire email. Perhaps, in context “take the lead” would make more sense?)

    Candidate only reschedules with colleague B.
    (This is weird. It may or may not be unconscious sexism but it is odd that the candidate did not include the OP in the rescheduling process.)

    Colleague B reschedules with candidate out of courtesy.
    (This is weirder. Why did colleague B not include OP? Also, why waste his and the candidate’s time if he was not serious about her candidacy?)

    Unconscious sexism may be at play here but it’s obscured with how unclear the OP’s instructions were to the candidate.

    1. Academic Addie*

      This is how I feel about it. I’ve been told to “take the lead”, so to speak, on interviews because I had a tough schedule. But I’ve always had that explained to me in clearer terms – “let us know what dates are good for you” and such.

      I can see everyone’s viewpoint here (except the partner – loop your damn colleague back in), depending on how emails are worded.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve been told to “take the lead”, so to speak, on interviews because I had a tough schedule. But I’ve always had that explained to me in clearer terms – “let us know what dates are good for you” and such.

        This. It’s not weird for an interviewer to say “since you’re the one with the difficult schedule, why don’t you suggest some times.” But it is weird, to me, to use the phrase “take the lead” in this situation.

        1. Academic Addie*

          Right, and we don’t know that take the lead is actually what she said, or a paraphrase thereof (as the first email “snippet” was). If she communicated this in the way I’ve heard it in the past (“let us know what dates are good for you”), then the candidate really overstepped by excluding OP, and in a way that it’s hard to make charitable assumptions about. If not, I can see the candidate’s perspective a lot more.

  33. Nolan*

    I also found the description of events confusing. OP, I’d consider re-reading your conversation with her pre-interview to make sure it was clear that you were supposed to attend as well as your colleague. I’m also one that wouldn’t know what “take the lead” was supposed to mean, though I’d probably mull over it for a while and then spend an hour composing an email trying to ask for clarification without sounding like a noob. A better wording would be “if you’re still interested, please provide a few dates/times that you’re available on and we’ll see if we can make them work on our end”.

  34. CMDRBNA*

    The OP’s actual question was not whether the candidate did something sexist, but whether she missed the mark in not replying to the OP’s email, and yes, I think she did – because the candidate is now coming in for an interview anyway!

    I don’t see that it would have been hard to respond to her email with something like “Actually, you must have misunderstood, I am part of the team that is interviewing and hiring you, and I will be scheduling an interview with you if we decide to move forward” or something similar.

    I have dealt with some truly horrible candidates, including someone who made a rape joke in an interview (not making that up) but my response was to clearly and unequivocally state that they’d done something inappropriate and then not hire/interview them.

  35. Mustache Cat*

    I admit to being pretty confused by the comments on this one, particularly multiple statements from people who would apparently understand “take the lead” as “exclude me from all communications”, and not “get back to me with times and dates” as it’s obviously meant. I read this letter almost exactly as Alison did.

    I agree that it’s not worth OP’s time to follow this up with the candidate, but that instead she should focus on making sure her male colleague makes sure she’s always going to be looped in in the future.

    1. Student*

      Agreed. I understood what the OP wanted the job candidate to do. I have to actively go against all my instincts, and job interview experience, to get to the conclusions of other commenters in excusing the job candidate’s behavior.

      Especially for a job interview, if I was at all confused by what somebody wanted me to do, I’d ask for a clarification. If I was sitting there going, “Do I reschedule with just partner B, or partner B and main-point-of-contact OP?” I would ASK.

      Commenters defending the job candidate from charges of sexism – I think you’re deeply uncomfortable calling something sexist and bending over backwards to avoid it. And I think that is a HUGE part of why we don’t address sexism well, and don’t make much progress on it.

      Sexism is something that everyone does from time to time – it’s like giving in to temptation (from cheating on your diet to both less and more extreme things), or losing one’s temper, or lying. Doing something sexist doesn’t have to brand you as Forever Sexist, and the idea that one is either Sexist or Not is a big fallacy that keeps us from making progress. Some people are much more habitual about it, and/or do more destructively sexist things than others, but everyone does it. You have to actively try to recognize it in yourself and counter it if you want to make a positive difference. You’ll slip up eventually, inevitably, but you can make such slip-ups smaller impact and less frequent if you try, and if you recognize them afterward you can try to reduce or counter the impact. Just like you have to learn not to lose your temper with others, and you learn to apologize for it when you slip up; but denying you could ever lose your temper is just denial because you don’t want to see your own ugly side in the mirror.

  36. Gandalf the Nude*

    I’m someone who often catch subtle sexism and read it where others don’t. And I hate, hate, hate it when folks minimize instances of sexism and am worried that the general trend of comments right now seems to be inadvertently glossing over an unconscious bias in action. I hate that I had to revise my comment so many times because I caught myself falling into the same trap. It’s important to listen to women when they speak about this kind of thing and not make them go through Twenty Questions before decreeing, “Yes. What you experienced was sexism. I’ve determined that you do, in fact, deserve my sympathy.” And I still believe in giving the OP the benefit of the doubt in interpreting their own experiences.

    It would be one thing if OP had asked, “Am I seeing sexism where there is none?” or even “That was sexist, right?” But unless they open that door themselves, most women don’t need anyone telling them, “No. That wasn’t sexist.”

    1. Roscoe*

      Roscoe, I want to remind you of the request I’ve made of you in the past re: issues related to sexism (which is why I’m not letting this comment through). Thanks. Alison

    2. CMDRBNA*

      Yup. This reminds me of a super cringeworthy moment when I assumed someone was a valet when they weren’t. I was parking at a hotel and there was a man standing behind (kind of leaning on) the valet stand wearing a polo shirt that looked like the hotel uniform, and I parked and hopped out to give him the keys. Turns out he was just a guest leaning on the valet stand and the valet wasn’t outside. I felt like such an ass in retrospect because he was a visible minority (I’m a minority too, but most people don’t realize it because I’m ethnically ambiguous looking, especially if I happen to not be all that tan at the moment). I wasn’t assuming he was the valet because he was a minority, I was assuming it because he looked like he had a uniform on and was leaning on the stand, but I really, really hope he didn’t think I assumed that because he was a minority!

      Ugh, I still feel like such a jerk when I think about it.

      Anyway, it’s interesting to me that most of the replies (including mine!) aren’t about what the OP actually asked, which is whether she should have responded to the candidate’s email, and yes, I think she should have! Especially because the OP is in a position to actually call out someone else’s sexism in this case!

      1. MsM*

        To be fair, there are two questions in the letter: “did I overreact?” and “should I have said something?” The former may be debatable, but I think the latter answer is definitely “yes.” Although I agree with you that the person who LW really needs to talk to is her colleague, since it’s a lot harder for her to emphasize she’s a vital part of the interview process when he’s giving the exact opposite impression, even if the interview is just a formality. If I were the candidate and got a “hey, that wasn’t cool” message at this point, I’d probably just think the place was dysfunctional and brush it off.

        1. CMDRBNA*

          And honestly, if I did something out of unconscious bias I would want someone to tell me, but if I also made an innocent mistake (I would never have done what the candidate did, but still) and someone assumed it was sexism and responded like this, I would also want to know, because I would not want to work for them!

    3. Anion*

      Okay, but what if the letter had said, “I received an email from a woman saying they wanted to meet with me, and that I’d be meeting with Man. I had to cancel, and then the woman told me that Man B would be traveling for the next week so they couldn’t talk to me then, and to ‘take the lead’ in scheduling. Not wanting to treat her as Man B’s admin just because she was a woman, I responded that I’d contact Man B directly. I guess that was fine with her, because she didn’t respond to tell me that she needed to be in the interview, too.”

      1. Gandalf the Nude*

        It didn’t, though. And I’d rather trust the OP’s reading of the situation since she has all the information and we don’t.

        1. Anion*

          No, it didn’t, but my point is that we don’t know the candidate’s viewpoint, and a letter from her POV might look very different. It’s all well and good to say “Take women at their word when they say something is sexism,” and I agree women should be listened to and taken seriously (I am also a woman), but I also think we’re ascribing pretty harsh motives to another woman here when her intention could have been expressly to avoid sexism.

  37. Naruto*

    I think unconscious sexism played a role here.

    If you all want to write this applicant off, then write her off and don’t interview her.

    If you want to interview her, you could ask her why she cut you out of that process. It will be an uncomfortable question, but how she handles it could tell you a lot.

    I’m surprised by all the answers saying “this could be simple confusion,” but on thinking about it more, I see where they’re coming from. There’s certainly enough potential for miscommunication for you to assume she misunderstood and give her a shot at an interview (if you want to; you certainly don’t have to interview anyone you don’t want to).

  38. a Gen X manager*

    Alison wrote, “I think you’ve mistaken me for a scheduler. I’m the partner who was interested in hiring you.””

    If I was OP, I would SO enjoy sending that! just reading it made my jaw hit the floor! *who WAS interested in hiring you.* doh!

    1. Consultant*

      I wouldn’t. It’s passive aggressive.

      Not to mention that if the OP wrote the candidate that the male partner was out of down and insisted on her “taking the lead”, it’s understandable how this could be misunderstood as “schedule it yourself with the partner, I don’t want to have anything to do with that”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        How is it passive aggressive? It’s a direct statement of what the OP believes to be going on.

        Hey ya’ll, more generally, I know there’s a ton of disagreement on this letter and it’s the kind of thing that I’d normally wade into and help navigate. I’m still swamped with work and my move so I’ve been in the comments and moderating less than usual in the last couple of weeks. I have pockets of time here and there (hell, the other day I had time to derail us about restaurants) but it’s way less than it normally is. So apologies for being less present lately; that will probably continue a week or two longer. (I am now realizing I need to say this somewhere more visible too, and I will.)

        1. Mike C.*

          I hope this isn’t presumptuous of me to say, but given how well you’ve set up this community I think things have been going pretty well given your move and whatnot.

          Speaking of restaurant derails, for folks in Seattle, LA or Japan/China, Din Tai Fung has some of the most amazing dumplings I’ve ever had. :D

            1. anon for now*

              Most of the comments in the ghost letter violated rule #1 of your commenting rules. Worst pile-on and projecting from the commentators I’ve seen on this site.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            Oooh thanks Mike. I’m stuck down here near Fed. Way for the foreseeable future and despise traveling even just 30 miles but I’m going to Bellevue next week and a trip across the bridge for amazing dumplings sounds like a good use of my time.

        2. Consultant*

          The situation described in this letter could be sexism. The problem is the description doesn’t warrant this conclusion at all. There is simply not enough information to infer that. Add to that the strange request to “take the lead” because the colleague is out of town, which would confuse plenty of people, which this thread shows.

          As a woman in a “male field” I encounter plenty of sexism every day, could write many stories about it. But because of that I think one should be careful about screaming sexism where we don’t have enough information to conclude it.

          “I think you’ve mistaken me for a scheduler. I’m the partner who was interested in hiring you”.

          Problems with that are:

          a) the first sentence is an assumption that doesn’t have to be true.
          b) the use of past voice in the second sentence is passive aggressive. The OP should have cancelled the interview if she felt she didn’t want the candidate (it would be a massive overreaction but that’s her right), but writing passive aggressive notes to anybody is just too much. I would have probably cancelled the interview already after the OP wrote me to “take the lead”, after this comment (“I wanted you”) I would feel the OP is totally unprofessional first asking me to fix it with her colleague then not being able to simply clarify a misunderstanding without making offensive assumptions.

          I once became very sick and had to cancel a meeting with a professor I wanted to interview 2 h before it, very early in the morning. Of course I apologised profusely, spend several minutes trying to find the most suitable language for that but without going into too much detail. She sent me a one-sentence response with an exclamation mark – “of course we can meet next week!”. Without “no problem”, without wishing me to get well soon. It’s about subtleties. I never contacted her again, don’t feel like wasting time for people offended by factors I can’t control.

          1. Yorick*

            You’re really nit-picking language here, and in the example you gave about the professor. For the majority of people, every single word is not chosen so carefully as to carry the meanings you’re ascribing.

          2. Sparkly Librarian*

            Huh. As I read your professor’s response, I thought how nice it was that a) she wasn’t angry, b) was willing to reschedule and gave you an approximate timeline, and c) that all of this could be communicated with the phrasing and punctuation. No emoticon needed.

            And then I read that your interpretation was basically the opposite of mine. And that you never responded to the professor because you were so offended(?). That she was offended.

            Language is so weird. Also people. And social cues.

  39. chi type*

    People this is really not confusing. I think your really twisting yourself in knots if you see anything but “let’s meet for an interview” “we will schedule with a third person as well”.
    Scheduling is also not a confusing or multi-faceted process. It can get complicated but it always just involves finding a time that works for all parties. OP clearly wanted the applicant to do the work of finding that time since she had previously done all that work and the applicant flaked on her. Anyone who can’t figure out what “take the lead on scheduling” means might want to reconsider working in a professional setting.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Anyone who can’t figure out what “take the lead on scheduling” means might want to reconsider working in a professional setting.

      And yet so many commenters admit to finding it confusing in this context. Should we all leave our jobs? Or is it possible that it’s blindingly obvious to some people, and ridiculously vague to others, and all are equally professional?

    2. Kelly L.*

      I think your final sentence is a little harsh, especially since lots of people in this thread have also said they wouldn’t be sure of the intended meaning. Should we all just throw our hands up and leave our professions?

      1. chi type*

        I apologize for any harshness. I just have a really hard time seeing how anyone would be confused about what’s involved in scheduling a meeting at a known location with 3 people.
        If my boss tells me I need to take the lead on scheduling something with her and X I don’t think “What does she want me to do? Should step 1 be calling a construction firm to build a conference room? Or…IDK.”
        Like I said, I honestly can’t think of any other plausible step than check everyone’s schedules for when they’re all free to meet.

        1. chi type*

          And fwiw it’s worth I think all the people expressing confusion are maybe just getting hung up on semantics? If they were really given that instruction I believe most of them would know what to do after thinking about it for a few seconds.

          1. MsM*

            But that’s the thing: if I’m the candidate and don’t really know you or how you work, I shouldn’t have to think about it, especially when I know I’m already on thin ice for missing the original interview and probably reading between the lines more than I otherwise would. If you want me to send both of you some dates and times for this week that I will definitely be available, just say that. If what you’re really asking is whether I care about this job enough to take initiative, which appears to have been LW’s rationale for phrasing things the way she did, then maybe it’s best to just admit the first impression has been irrevocably spoiled and move on.

            1. chi type*

              Yes but you’re not actually expressing any confusion about how to take the lead in scheduling, there’s just not that much to it.
              You may doubt OP’s motives for asking you but if you want the job regardless, it’s pretty obvious (or, I guess only obvious to me) what needs to be done.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          But, you and your boss are both in the same company. That is not at all the same as an interviewee, who doesn’t know you or your boss or who is boss or who needs to do the interview or what the company needs are. And expecting them to set up their own interview in that case seems like you’re expecting them to know all that before their interview. It’s completely normal for Ms. Flake to expect Mr. Coworker to make sure the appropriate people are at the interview, after just the two of them find a time that works for both of them, as requested by Ms. OP.

          1. chi type*

            I guess, to me, that’s all premised on there being initial confusion about who was included and I just don’t buy that that was unclear either.
            If someone, anyone, a stranger on the street, walked up to me and said I need you take the lead on scheduling a meeting with me and that guy over there I would not be confused about what she wanted me to do. WHY she wanted ME to do it, sure. But not about what was required.

            1. Stop That Goat*

              Sure…provided that he actually said ‘me and that guy over there’. There’s some pretty big ambiguity in whether anything beyond ‘you take the lead because this coworker is out of town next week’ was actually said.

              I think that you feel so clearly about it because you are getting the OP’s point of view. That’s not necessarily the information that the candidate had to work with.

              1. chi type*

                “I think that you feel so clearly about it because you are getting the OP’s point of view. ”

                Well that and no one has offered me any plausible (imo) source of confusion. If you know who you’re meeting with and where I just can’t imagine any further confusion. Maybe that’s a failure of imagination on my part.

      2. Student*

        If you are truly so confused, and the context is a job interview, why on earth wouldn’t you just ask what was intended? Are you seeing what the OP wrote and saying, “Reasonable doubt exists” or “I would’ve assumed the OP was not part of the job interview and been 100% confident in not rescheduling with her, only her colleague”.

        Reasonable doubt in a job interview (or, hopefully, in a job) should mean you get clarification. Not getting clarification over reasonable doubt is, indeed, unprofessional. I’m one of the folks having a hard time even seeing reasonable doubt, given the context, but I’m willing to hear others would’ve had reasonable doubt. I cannot for the life of me see this as being a 100% confidant decision to cut the OP out of the meeting without an assumption that the OP is unimportant.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Reasonable doubt is certainly where I would place myself. I’m part of the ‘had to read this twice’ camp and I feel like there’s a wide enough cross-section of commenters who were confused that I’m not comfortable going straight to a “the applicant doesn’t think women can be in charge” interpretation. It’s possible, sure, that the applicant is both flakey and sexist, but I don’t think it’s clear that’s the only interpretation possible. (Or that it was clear enough that the default reaction is SHOCKED and APPALLED rather than an eye-roll and an email that clarifies that op is very much involved on the same level as male partner.

          You are right that applicant should have asked, but when I get an ambiguous email I usually have a minute of “Am I being dense or does this not make sense?” Nowadays I’d take the risk and ask, but earlier on in my career or in an interview I would be worried that the op’s reaction might be “Well, if she can’t understand a simple email…” especially if I were on thin ice post flake-out.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I also had to read it twice, but because it seemed so blatantly obvious and I didn’t see what the candidate was missing—then I realized that if I didn’t start with the headline about OP being cut out of the interview, it seems a lot less clear.

            Without that context, it’s so ambiguous that I would probably do what I thought I was being told to do (scheduled with Male Colleague with the assumption that he would loop OP back in), and not bother double-checking because I’ve had interviews where the first contact for the job was with Person A, then I scheduled with Person B, and both people managed to make it to the interview just fine.

    3. Delphine*

      This is why candidates for a job should not be expected to set up their own interviews, frankly. That’s the LW and her colleague’s job. You can test someone on their interest at the actual interview.

    4. Soon to be former fed*

      I concur. I carefully re-read the OP’s post. All three people were scheduled to meet that Friday morning. Since the candidate cancelled, it was reasonable to punt re-scheduling coordination back to her, for all three of them! Sounds like candidate may have been miffed about this. In any case, candidate was wrong to omit OP from the rescheduled interview, although it may not have been for sexist reasons at all. There is little to no chance that candidate didn’t realize that OP was a partner.

      I do think OP should have directly told the candidate to include her in the rescheduling efforts when she said otherwise.

      I think male partner didn’t invite OP to the interview because he didn’t want to waste her time since at that point they were just going through the motions and had no serious interest in her candidacy. Nothing nefarious here either.

      In forty years, I have never cancelled an interview, let alone cancel on short notice. I had an interview scheduled with a federal agency on 9/12/01. I confirmed with my interviewer that their office near O’Hare airport would be open and we had our interview. I got the job. It was so eerie with no planes in the air, but that’s another story for another time.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Why is never having cancelled an interview a badge of honor? Some things can’t be avoided. I’ve never expected to be able to reschedule, but if I can’t do the interview I prefer to cancel rather than just not show up.

    5. Ramona Flowers*

      If someone asked me to take the lead on scheduling at my workplace I’d respectfully ask what they actually meant.

  40. Delphine*

    I can’t imagine being a candidate, and deciding to cut out one of the interviewers. Even if I was a little confused, I’d err on the side of caution and include both of them.

    BUT, I think asking the candidate to take the lead on rescheduling because the male interviewer was travelling caused this issue. I bet the candidate thought that, since male interviewer was out, she was meant to reach out directly to him and check his availability. He probably replied that he’d be back on X day and that he could interview the candidate at Y time. And the candidate assumed then that everything was settled, that male interviewer would tell the LW that they’d worked out a new time (since clearly she had no scheduling issue, and they are both colleagues) and they would both be at the interview.

    It would have been more appropriate for the LW to say, after the cancellation, that her colleague was travelling and she would check in with him and they’d see if they would work out a new time to see the candidate. That’s the interviewer’s responsibility, and not some strange test of sincerity.

    I believe in giving the LW the benefit of the doubt here, but I’m not entirely sure sexism is why she was cut out of the interview. Maybe the candidate deserves a little benefit of the doubt, too.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      He probably replied that he’d be back on X day and that he could interview the candidate at Y time. And the candidate assumed then that everything was settled, that male interviewer would tell the LW that they’d worked out a new time (since clearly she had no scheduling issue, and they are both colleagues) and they would both be at the interview.

      In fact, it’s not even a stretch to suggest that when she “took the lead” with Fergus, she assumed he was coordinating with the OP and would pick a time that suited her as well.

      1. (the reader who asked this question)*

        I see your point. The responses to this thread have me re-reviewing my emails, and all my communications included my colleague (whose name is not Fergus, but I’m liking it!) and pronouns such as “we,” and references to “our” schedules.

        Fergus (colleague) wasn’t referred to as a boss in our threads: There was no hierarchical set-up other than him being busy, not responsive, and traveling, which is why the whole thing was so puzzling.

        Thank you for your input/comment.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          See, that’s some necessary context that makes the situation definitely more odd on the candidate’s part. Having to remove you from the email chain is more work than sending an email to Fergus and neglecting to include you, so that seems more deliberate than it sounds in the letter.

          Thank you for clarifying. :)

        2. Working Hypothesis*

          LW, can you clarify something for me? You’ve indicated that you were surprised that the candidate cut you out of the communication and dealt only with your colleague, when you were supposed to remain involved. The part I’m missing is, why didn’t your colleague — who presumably knew that you were supposed to be involved, didn’t he? — loop you back in? Why would he schedule her for something one-on-one without you?

          I’m able to understand the candidate’s actions as a misunderstanding of your instructions, but I cannot understand your colleague’s.

    2. Mike C.*

      I can’t imagine being a candidate, and deciding to cut out one of the interviewers. Even if I was a little confused, I’d err on the side of caution and include both of them.

      This is really where I come down. Unless told otherwise I’m going to be including everyone – it’s basic game theory. If I chose to CC everyone then either I’ve done everything expected of me, or a few people received an extra email. If I choose to leave people out then either I’ve done everything expected of me, or I’ve done something ranging from leaving important people out of the conversation to making people wonder exactly what the OP is wondering.

      So given the worst case scenario of either choice, I’ll take the risk of a few extra emails over possibly alienating someone I’m actively trying to impress.

  41. Delphine*

    And to answer the actual question (sorry)–yes, LW, I think you definitely missed the mark. You chose to ignore the email where you had the opportunity to clear up any confusion on the candidate’s part. You told her to take the lead and she did, just not the way you meant. At that point, it was on you to fix what might have been an innocent misunderstanding.

  42. Jaydee*

    Couple of things. From the LW’s description of events, it sounds pretty clear that initially LW contacted Flake E. Applicant to schedule interview and included Mr. Colleague in the interview. When Applicant emailed at the last minute to cancel, LW mentioned Mr. Colleague’s travel the next week to explain why they wouldn’t be able to reschedule immediately and suggested that Applicant “take the lead” on rescheduling to minimize the amount of additional time she and Mr. Colleague would have to waste rescheduling.

    The issue I see is that when Applicant wrote back and said “okay! I’ll schedule with Mr. Colleague directly” the LW didn’t respond. That was her opportunity to say “oh, Applicant, I see you misunderstood. Both Mr. Colleague and I will be participating in the interview. I simply mentioned his travel because it makes him unavailable this week. Please suggest some dates and times that would work for you and we will see which work for us.”

    Was Applicant being overtly sexist or at least influenced by some implicit bias? I don’t know. Totally possible. Also possible that this was (further) evidence of her flakiness. Also possible it was a legit misunderstanding. But if LW didn’t respond to Applicant, then it was reasonable for Applicant and Mr. Colleague to assume her silence was tacit approval and to go forward without her.

    1. Delphine*

      But if LW didn’t respond to Applicant, then it was reasonable for Applicant and Mr. Colleague to assume her silence was tacit approval and to go forward without her.

      Yes, I agree with this too–the lack of further communication suggests to the other party that the course taken is appropriate.

    2. Language Lover*

      Yep. I didn’t see this response before I wrote mine but I don’t understand why the LW didn’t respond to the email. The offense, even if it was unconscious bias, wasn’t such that I’d be so blown away I’d be unable to respond in some way that this was not what I meant at all.

    3. Myrin*

      OP, this right here is the answer to your actual question (which many people seem to have skirted kind of, although the comments coming out of that are still very worth reading IMO), which was: “Did I miss the mark in not replying that she was wrong to cut me out?” Yes, I believe you did, and this comment explains why really well!

    4. CyclistChick5*

      Exactly. I can even see how the candidate may have thought her response showed initiative and that she *was* taking the lead, without realizing that it was a huge error to assume that OP didn’t want to be included.

      As others have said, it’s unfair to assume malice (sexism) when the simplest explanation is ignorance https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanlon%27s_razor

  43. Language Lover*

    I initially thought sexism. After reading the comments, I can also see how it may have been confusing for the candidate, although I still can’t quite see how she would have made the leap to working only with the other partner…

    Unless she picked up on the LW’s belief that the candidate wasn’t really interested in the job. We don’t have specific wording so perhaps the “take the lead” did come off as a “whatever” as “take the lead,” while a common phrase, is anything but common when it comes to being a candidate already in a company’s hiring pipeline.

    I understand being taken aback if you assumed her email about contacting your co-worker directly was sexism but I guess I think I would have eventually gotten back to her to ask her why. You’re the employer so you wouldn’t really have anything to lose by seeing if there is a miscommunication if you were already willing to scrap her as a potential hire.

    Also weird is your co-worker’s decision to interview her, even though he must have known you were the one who was initially interested in her, and apparently not loop you in the way you’ve looped him in. Especially since he’s already a “no.”

    1. (the reader who asked this question)*

      Good point. With “take the lead” I was seeking a gentle(r) way of saying: “figure it out whether you want the position or not,” or “ball’s in your court.” I’m willing to speak with someone on the fence, particularly as I see value in learning about how other organizations (like that currently employing Ms. Flake) work. Never a waste of time, and if it is, we can cut it short.

      Respectfully, I do see risk in telling Ms. Flake off: it’s a small industry and I do think word gets around about jerk interviewers. I’m still not settled on whether I did the right thing in letting it die without reply to her, but I do find satisfaction that, ultimately, Ms. Flake cancelled on my male colleague. And, yes, I fully admit this is passive aggressive.

      1. Poster Child*

        A gentler way to say that isn’t something vague like “take the lead.” I would say “If you are still interested in the position, please respond back with times you are available to reschedule.” Direct and non emotional. It seems like you got so annoyed that she cancelled that everything you thought about writing was infused with emotion. It doesn’t need to be.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m just replying to say this is a response from the OP / LW for people who control+F for this as it took a lot of skimming to find it. Thanks for commenting!

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      I think it could be really easy for her to think she was working only with the other partner depending on the wording of all the communications. If OP originally reached out with something like “Your resume really made an impact on us, we’d like to bring you in for an interview” and then later reaches out after her cancellation to say “John will be out next week, take the lead on rescheduling” then I think it would be 100% reasonable for the candidate to think “okay, I guess I’m interviewing with John. I’ll reach out to him to find a time that works.”

  44. Grendel*

    Maybe sexism or maybe just poor reading comprehension. It’s not like there wasn’t already a clue the applicant is a bit flaky. Interview if you’re interested but if you’re not just say so rather than tossing the ball in the applicant’s court with the hope the whole thing dies on her watch. Both OP and her partner are too conflict averse.

  45. (the reader who asked this question)*

    Wow! I’m the poster who asked this question!

    I’m commenting just 2 hours after this question went live and I’m BLOWN AWAY by the responses.
    As some have accurately noted: I see (then, and now) that my language invited her to “take the lead.” Kudos to her for taking the lead. Shame on her for assuming I’m a goddamn secretary. I’m a partner (title = Principal) just like my colleague.

    Point to note: I was the sender of the calendar invite for the original interview (which included myself, male Principal + Flaky Candidate), after my initial email saying I liked her resume. Perhaps sending calendar invitations is perceived as secretarial?

    My ambiguity/confusion was that, after her note stating she’d be going around me…I literally had no. idea. what to write back. Everything felt passive aggressive, so I did nothing.

    UPDATE: Male colleague scheduled an interview with her, and 24 hours prior, she cancelled AGAIN. She won’t be receiving a response from either of us.

    1. LBK*

      If you were on the original invite, it seems pretty unambiguous to me that you should’ve been included in the rescheduled interview.

      1. Poster Child*

        Actually, assistants set up interviews and meetings all the time and will be on the invite because they set it up, but not actually attend.
        OP, I’m surprised you didn’t know how to respond to a misunderstanding or mistake by the candidate. You’re a partner at a firm right? Sounds like you’re the boss. Tell the candidate what you want and correct them politely if they don’t do what you want. “Actually can you please send me the times you’ll be available other than next week? I need to be part of the interview as well.”

        1. Jerry Vandesic*

          Our recruiting team sets up the interviews when I have an opening. The recruiter who sends out the invite does not participate in the interview.

      1. MsM*

        Yeah, I know I keep harping on this, but I think it’s a strong argument in favor of just going with your gut if you get the feeling the person doesn’t really want this and wrapping things up right there.

    2. BethRA*

      Did she give a reason for canceling either time? (not that it matters, I’m just curious)

      And yeah, what LBK said.

      1. (the reader who asked this question)*

        “I apologize for the short notice, but today is proving difficult to meet due to an assignment that is a priority.
        I have full availablilty next week if there is a time that works best for you.”

        Note the misspelling of availability. Some readers have said, fairly, I should have said “we’re pursuing other candidates” right then. But her resume was really great…

        1. Jaguar*

          Some would call that a typo. You do seem to come off as very harsh on the candidate. Like, I wouldn’t have noted the typo at all.

          1. SarahKay*

            I would call that a typo. There’s something about words ending in -ility that makes my fingers want to add extra l’s and t’s…. :(

          2. Corvid*

            But this is a candidate who cancelled two meetings, and the reason for cancelling one of them seems vague at best! And to add the sloppiness of typos on top of that… yeah, it’s not a good look.

            I wouldn’t call OP’s response harsh at all.

          3. CrazyEngineerGirl*

            I think OP may just be at interviewee-version of BEC with Ms. Flaky. And tbh, I think it’s totally fair to take (what could be) simple typos into consideration in hiring circumstances like this. I mean, everything I type has those little red underlines for spell-check. So even a simple typo would make me wonder, especially given the circumstances here, if Ms. Flaky was just totally oblivious. Did she not notice? Did she not proofread, not even a glance? Did she just not care? If I’m hiring for a job where attention to detail is important, you can bet that I’m going to judge candidates on something as small as this, particularly if I’m seeing a pattern like OP is here with Ms. Flaky.

          4. Halpful*

            I had to squint. all those vertical lines close together make it hard to spot that there’s one extra. (I’m glad I get a red underline on most typos on my computer!)

            Two cancellations in a row is still not cool, though. Especially if that second cancellation didn’t come with an acknowledgement of how bad that is.

          5. Akcipitrokulo*

            If, as mentioned elsewhere, she is in industry where there may be last minute changes and it’s a genuine situation, in her shoes I’d take a completely different tone…

            “I am really sorry to have to cancel at short notice; one of our largest clients has just called to require last minute changes, and I do have to deal with this. I realise how bad this looks, and how much this has inconvenienced you, especially after the emergency which caused me to cancel our first appointment, and completely understand if you do not wish to proceed. However I am still very interested and would greatly appreciate another opportunity to meet if possible.”

            A note like that…. then maybe.

            Not the “hey… bigger priorities, laters!” attitude shown there. That’s a red flag for me.

        2. Consultant*

          If this is a consulting firm or a law firm (the kind of places that use “partner” or “principal” in their titles, you know that project and deal flow can make candidates unavailable on short notice. You don’t get to abscond from the office for an hour if you’re closing a deal. That’s pretty much true even of any doctor appointment short of a life-or-death emergency. LW should know this bit of her industry’s culture and not assume the candidate was a flake. And the candidate can’t disclose what she’s working on.

        3. Toph*

          This would put her off my list (although she’d already have been off my list already by now probably), not due to the typo but her reasoning now sounds like “I committed to meet with you twice but I’m too busy at current job to stick to it”. On the one hand, good that she’s prioritizing her current work? But it also shouldn’t have been a surprise to her? So either she’s committed to taking time off for her job search or she isn’t, and she isn’t.

        4. Janey Jane*

          “I apologize for the short notice, but today is proving difficult to meet due to an assignment that is a priority.”


          SO at 6 am she realizes she can’t get her work done in time and decides to bail on the interview? Could she not have realized that when she left work the night before and emailed you then? Could she not have arranged her work better in advance, knowing that she would lose time to the interview?

          At 6am, your cancellation excuse is “I just woke up woefully ill,” NOT “I just realized I can’t manage my day’s workload.”

          This is someone who has poor communication skills, poor time management skills, and very little clue. You’re better off without her.

          1. Bryce*

            In my circles it would mean “the servers are on fire. Again” or “night shift thought dropping the most expensive and fragile part of our job was a good idea.” But I assume the OP knows her field and how likely surprise interruptions are.

        5. Akcipitrokulo*

          I’d ignore the typo…. and part of my job is correcting them :) but if that is the second cancellation, yeah, that’s a bit cavalier and says to me not really interested in job.

          I’d probably send a brief note because I’m more professional than applicant along lines of “thank you for your interest. We have decided not to continue with your application.”

    3. CMDRBNA*

      LW, thank you for responding! I love seeing updates and I hope the comments were helpful. Also, wow – sounds like your organization dodged a bullet with this candidate. Cancelling on short notice a second time? That is really egregious!

      I have in the past also been assumed to have been in an admin or support role because I was the youngest woman in the room. It sucks. I’ve often been in a situation where I couldn’t really call the person out, but if you find a candidate doing this again in the future, I hope you’ll say something to them! I don’t think it’s passive aggressive to directly tell a person, hey, what you did was not okay, and here’s why. Even if the candidate wasn’t being sexist (and I 100% believe your interpretation that she was), what she did was still not okay.

      I did work in an industry that was mostly men, and women often got assumed to be support staff (my favorite story was a woman lawyer who was sitting in a deposition room when the opposing attorneys walked in, asked for coffee, and began going over their strategy, assuming that she was a secretary or there to operate the video camera. Needless to say, she completely crushed them in the deposition!).

      Honestly, especially if I were a younger candidate or a guy, I think being called out on unconscious sexism is a very valuable lesson!

    4. Consultant*

      1. At my company sending calendar invites is indeed a task for the receptionist/secretary.

      2. I have always thought that in consulting “principal” means “more senior than an associate, but less senior than a partner.”

      Quit with the assumptions and the ‘tude, please.

      1. LBK*

        I don’t see where you’re sensing a ‘tude, and you’re making plenty of your own assumptions. I think at most companies a calendar invite is something that a secretary may handle, but that doesn’t mean only secretaries send them. I mean, I don’t have a secretary, so I have to send my own, and even the senior execs I work with who do have admins sometimes just do it themselves.

        1. Consultant*

          I’m sensing a ‘tude because of the profanity (“assuming I’m a goddamn secretary”) when people have pointed out that her communication style was ambiguous. Even if LW disagreed, a simple “I disagree” would suffice, instead of getting so defensive.

          1. I woke up like this*

            Yeah, I think she’s just frustrated with the situation. I didn’t see “a goddamn secretary” as directed toward commenters… just directed at sexist assumptions. People are really keen to find reasons to attack this letter writer.

    5. M from NY*

      I think you’re still missing point of so many commenters. Instructions to “take the lead” & sending calendar invite does not make it crystal clear that you were to be included in future meetings. All you had to do was respond to her response to correct her that both of you were to be included in the rescheduling.

      Update notwithstanding if you set appointment for 8 am I wouldn’t put undue weight on a 6 am cancellation. Sometimes things happen and I’m not sure when you think she was supposed to advise that she needed to reschedule. To avoid future misunderstanding instead of assuming worse of a candidate try to be more mindful of your communication. If 50% of posters here are debating your instructions that means what you said and what was heard was not received clearly. Assuming sexist intentions when it could just as easily been a misunderstanding makes it hard to deal with other more direct “you know it but can’t prove it” situations.

      1. LBK*

        Instructions to “take the lead” & sending calendar invite does not make it crystal clear that you were to be included in future meetings.

        I think it is pretty crystal clear – to me, there’s no way you see someone is on a calendar invite for a meeting you’re rescheduling and decide that they don’t need to be included in the reschedule, especially without even asking for confirmation that their attendance was optional. It would never occur to me to do that.

        1. M from NY*

          If that is the assumption then don’t say “take the lead” either explain why follow up is 2 weeks away (other participant is going on vacation), offer a new rescheduling date or ask for options during new time period. Telling someone to take lead then being offended when they do is a waste of energy.

          1. LBK*

            She did explain why the follow up date was 2 weeks away. And it’s not being offended about someone taking the lead, it’s that she took the lead and then cut out the OP. She was just supposed to reschedule the interview, not change the attendees.

        2. Elizabeth H.*

          But when she said take the lead she was kind of hoping or expecting that the candidate would flake out and not really involve her or waste her time further. I think it’s possible that the candidate picked up on that tone in the email, because letter-writer WAS in fact disinterested in interviewing this candidate at that point. Given that this is how letter-writer felt and sort of the subconscious message she was trying to get across, I can see how the candidate would have picked up that idea from whatever exact words letter writer actually used.

        3. Holly*

          I disagree. I was an executive admin for many years and I was on many, many invites for meetings I did not attend. I agree that as a candidate for a job you should cover your bases, but I don’t think who is on the invite is always as straightforward as you’re suggesting it is. Even in my current job, where I am not an admin, I’m on many invites that I don’t need to be on or plan to attend.

      2. Anion*

        And if you want to be treated like a professional with rank and power in your company, act like it and speak up for yourself; don’t refuse to correct someone and then bristle that they’re not treating you the way you think they should.

        1. Fictional Butt*

          Right. OP, you complained that “everything felt passive aggressive,” but I’m reading a lot of passive aggression in your behavior, too– refusing to reschedule the candidate because you were upset she cancelled (but not just rejecting her outright), then not responding to her email to include yourself in the interview, then having your coworker give her a courtesy interview instead of rejecting her. This is a good opportunity to see (and change) how you respond to problems like this.

          1. CMDRBNA*


            Working on the assumption that the candidate’s response was, in fact, rooted in sexism, the OP had ample opportunity to quickly and clearly correct her and set the record straight. Instead, the entire thing seems to have turned into a clusterfumble. Clearly the candidate isn’t a good one (flaking on two interviews?) but I would really, really, reallllllly wouldn’t want to work for someone who responds to things the way the OP responded to this situation.

    6. Stop That Goat*

      I don’t understand how she assumed you were a secretary. That seems like your own interjection.

      I’d love to see the note about taking the lead. I think that’s where the real confusion comes from.

      1. Woman*


        Assuming LW was a secretary would mean asking LW to reschedule on male partner’s behalf, not “taking the lead” to ask male partner’s schedule directly when that’s what LW told her to do (in one reasonable interpretation).

    7. Naruto*

      I would suggest that you could have responded something like, “Actually, I will be conducting (or participating in) this interview, too. Please include both of us in your effort to reschedule.” I don’t think that would have been passive agressive at all.

    8. Tertia*

      I don’t think you should be overly concerned about whether sending the calendar invitation makes you look secretarial. If I were the candidate, I would have read the e-mail as indicating that you were irked and were handing me off to the other partner. I then would have realized that I probably wasn’t getting the job, but the point is that I would have thought you were directing me away from you. Maybe she should have thought it through more carefully, but I’m seeing this as her misreading your meaning, not misreading your rank.

      But if you do think that other people might make the same mistake about your status, you might try replacing “me” and “him” with “we” and “us.” So: “We would like to meet you,” and “We won’t both be available until next week.”

      1. Tertia*

        And I see below that you do use “we,” but if I were the candidate I probably still would have read your second message as hinting that I should deal with him now, not you.

    9. Leenie*

      I actually don’t think she necessarily thought you were an admin. It’s entirely possible that she thought that you were stepping away from the process (maybe due to her cancellation?). Her email back to you seems like her way of confirming that that was how you wanted her to proceed. That said, she hardly seems worth all of this angst. Who cancels two interviews?

    10. Zara*

      I think there’s no indiciation that she saw you as a secretary, but you seem to have run with that assumption and allowed it to influence your feelings about this. I’m just not sure why your first instinct was outrage.

    11. SWGl*

      OK, yes, she’s a flake and doesn’t deserve another chance at this point.
      But I still can’t see where and how you’re getting the impression that she assumed you were the secretary or even that she was trying to “go around you.”
      What am I missing here? Is it not way more likely that she saw your reference to Fergus’ schedule being a problem and interpreted “take the lead” as “reschedule with Fergus”? Even if she made a mistake by thinking she should go to Fergus and not you after that email exchange, why does that mean that she thought you were “just” a secretary or even that she thought Fergus was your superior? It really sounds like she just thought her interview was with Fergus, and he was out the next week, so she would need to check with him for when to reschedule.
      AskAManager regularly has letters from candidates who are confused about the messages they get from companies they apply to. Is it possible that she’s another one of those people? You’re the only one who actually talked to her, so I’ll take your word on the impression you got from her first-hand… but none of the details in your letter lead directly to the conclusions you’re drawing about her motivations. Based on just the facts of what happened, I’d be inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt on this one.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        It’s also possible that she went to Fergus BECAUSE she saw op as the boss… “take the lead” and “Fergus is out until…” could be inferred as “you two sort this out and let me know when all the to and fro is finished”.

    12. RB*

      Why are you bashing secretaries? Do you have a little sexism of your own going on? Secretaries are normally called assistants nowadays. Do you still call airline attendants stewardesses?

      1. RB*

        Sorry, this was in reply to the original poster but it may not be showing up that way because this is a long thread. Just fyi.

      2. Secretarial Studies*

        I’m a secretary. That’s my job title, that’s what I am and what I do. I am not an “assistant”. It is NOT sexist or “bashing” to use my actual job title to refer to my role, and suggesting that it is, is offensive to me.

        1. RB*

          Sorry about that. It wasn’t so much the word itself but how she said it, in such a demeaning way, “goddamn secretary.” As though, to be confused with a secretary was somehow an insult. I was trying to stick up for secretaries/assistants but obviously that didn’t come across.

          I genuinely thought that term was a thing of the past. I haven’t heard it used in my area or at my companies in almost two decades but I can see where different regions might be different.

      3. KrisFlyer*

        Many airlines (including my own Singapore Airlines) call them “stewards” and “stewardesses.”

        The US is not the whole world. Some of us think in-flight service is more than leaving you the whole can of coke, and I appreciate SQ’s service culture.

    13. CM*

      At first I understood why so many commenters were saying that this could all be a misunderstanding, and perhaps the applicant was just confused.

      But with all the additional context, it’s clear that no matter how great this applicant’s resume was, she is a flake. (Possibly a sexist flake, but it’s hard to say since none of the applicant’s interactions were professional.) So I think the OP’s reaction (“Everything felt passive aggressive, so I did nothing”) turned out to be the right one.

      I would also be very annoyed and confused if I were trying to schedule an interview with somebody (and by saying “would you like to have breakfast or lunch,” it’s very clear that the OP would be there) and they said they would contact somebody else who was just CCed on the original email. I think it’s quite possible that the applicant was assuming the OP was an admin. But it’s also possible that the applicant is just really bad at interacting with people in a professional way.

  46. Kate*

    ““I think you’ve mistaken me for a scheduler. I’m the partner who was interested in hiring you.”” LoL, emphasis on past tense!

  47. Terra-cotta*

    I believe this was a bit convuluted to begin with. Being told someone “liked” me would make me feel uncomfortable. But I see this as immaturity on interviees end, not sexism.

    1. (the reader who asked this question)*

      Thanks for your note. Some have asked for the original email. Here it is:

      Dear [First Name of Ms. Flake]:
      Thank you for your interest and outreach. I like your resume, and would like to learn a bit more about you and what you’re looking for in your next move:
      Would you like to have breakfast or lunch possibly this Friday? (I ask because we have some travel coming up next week). Let me know.
      Thank you once again for your interest and we look forward to learning more about you.

      **Note my make colleague was CCed on this note, hence the mention of “we”. Sure breakfast/lunch might be somewhat forward, but in my defense: candidate’s app/outreach was *very* strong, and our schedules were otherwise packed.

      1. Myrin*

        Thanks so much for posting this verbatim, OP! While I, too, found the phrasing used in your original letter somewhat confusing (probably at least in part because I’m not a native English speaker), this is very clear wording and IMO doesn’t leave much room for the candidate to misunderstand your role as one of the interviewers.

          1. Stop That Goat*

            Absolutely. I think that communication is the key to whether it was reasonably clear to the candidate or not. This one is pretty superfluous.

      2. M from NY*

        When I was an admin I spoke in universal “we” on behalf of my bosses plenty of times. Frankly, this isn’t the proof you think it is that justifies your belief that she was deliberately cutting you out from response. I honestly don’t believe you were cut out intentionally & you should look at some of the suggested wording already shared to prevent future misunderstandings.

        1. ket*

          But that’s the point: sexism from someone like this isn’t intentional, ever, and assuming “we” means “she’s the admin and he’s the boss” is sexist. The whole point is the assumption “oh despite Principal in the title I know admins speak like that so she must be an admin” is sexist.

        2. Yorick*

          Would you have said “I like your resume, and would like to learn more…” if you were the assistant scheduling the interview on behalf of your boss??

          Even if so, I would never think that someone who wrote that was not the one hiring me.

      3. Meg*

        I’m an admin who schedules interviews and meetings both. Your letter does not indicate to me that you were scheduling on behalf of someone else.

        Maybe you could be more clear? I think this is fine. But frankly, if the person who was interested was unclear, they should have freaking asked.

      4. Bess*

        This is even weirder! It’s pretty clear to me from this letter that you’re the one hiring, and, yeah, if I sent that email and then the candidate was like “thanks I’ll follow up with the other guy” I’d be super confused and a little offended.

        1. Elizabeth H.*

          I agree, from this initial email it’s obviously clear that you are both doing the interview and the hiring. I don’t think that’s really the issue though, I think what would be more relevant and interesting is the follow-up communication from which she apparently derived the idea that the interview was supposed to be only with one of the people who was originally interviewing her.

      5. Fruit Bat*

        As an admin and scheduler who writes a ton of emails setting up appointments for my boss (also the principal of a firm) and others, this message is unambiguously clear that you are involved in the hiring and will be attending the meeting. The candidate would have to have some really terrible reading comprehension to think otherwise.

        Did they, like you seem to be implying, actually send you a note that they are going around you to reschedule with your colleague? Or did you only find out from your colleague after the fact?

      6. Humble Schoolmarm*

        Thanks for posting this! From your original letter I wondered if maybe Flaky applicant might have inferred that you were sold on her as a candidate, but that both you and your partner needed to approve for her to be hired, hence the interview. It’s quite clear from this that wasn’t the case and that you wanted to interview her. (If anything I would say that your partner’s involvement is more ambiguous).

        Also, I read her excuse for cancelling the interview. Was that cancelling the first or second interview? I would be shocked if someone backed out on two hours notice because they were busy at their other job. I would think same-day cancellation should be reserved for unexpected illnesses or some personal emergency.

        1. Sarah*

          I agree, why would a secretary “like her resume and want to learn more”? I agree the colleague’s involvement is more questionable, and assuming he was not necessary to the interview process would have been a more reasonable assumption.

          All around, this person just sounds like a flake. The wording of her cancellation email is beyond entitled — medical emergency, family emergency, car breaking down on the highway — all of that is reasonable for a last-minute interview cancellation. “I’m busy” is just…not.

      7. Robotio*

        Ok, thanks for this clarification. I just find it blasé on the candidates end that she cancelled so last minute. Just odd how she behaved when she obviously put so much time in a good cover letter and resume adjusted to your job opening.

      8. Akcipitrokulo*

        Thanks for that … and breakfast/lunch is fine imo! Definitely clear you’re doing interviewing.

        I think it may have been the second one. ..where applicant was asked to take the lead… that may shed more light on how badly she misunderstood/was being sexist?

        (Hope this doesn’t come across as taking the piss!)

    2. Akcipitrokulo*

      “Liked” would be fine for me… it means, to me, “your cv and letter were impressive and I think you may be a good fit”.

  48. Gloucesterina*

    I can see the point of folks thinking about the clarity of the email conversation. When I want someone to suggest a meeting date/time, I write, “Please suggest a date/time within TIMEFRAME that works for you.” I don’t normally need us to loop in another participant, but if I wanted them to, I’d write “Please include NAME and EMAIL in your reply.” (I’m in a certain type of academic context where “formal and direct on the verge of sounding like a robot” is considered normal and not too weird for initial email contact.)

    That said, I don’t think that worrying the ambiguity of the “take the lead” verbiage–whether or not that’s what the LW literally typed–s speaking to what the LW experienced, where the interviewee didn’t apparently consider that LW should be copied on her conversation with LW’s colleague. I do wonder if the interviewee didn’t want to clog the LW’s inbox, but of course even good intentions can have bad implications.

    I once had a really eye-opening conversation with a mentor where she pushed back when I mentioned being hesitant to invite another mentor to an evening event because this second mentor had childcare responsibilities and I didn’t want to impose on their time. Mentor #1 told me something like: “You’re worried about inviting Mentor #2 out of care and concern for them. But when I had a young kid, it made me feel bad when I learned about friends and colleagues having evening events that I was never invited to. I wasn’t given a choice. You’re coming from a good place, but you should offer Mentor #2 the choice.”

    In short, Mentor #1 didn’t explicitly chalk my impulse to insulate Mentor #2 in their childcare bubble to sexism (incidentally, we’re all women) but that’s what I saw in my thinking process. So yep, I did invite Mentor #2 to my evening event after that! She wasn’t ultimately able to attend because her partner threw out their back and couldn’t handle childcare alone, but I was happy that I was able to do something small to make her feel included.

    This episode also opened my eyes to how sexism can actually work not just downward down a hierarchy but upward–this was me as a student making assumptions about a faculty member. My doing these things wasn’t going to cost her opportunities for career advancement and promotion, but it became more viscerally evident to me how someone could be affected by such assumptions up the food chain.

  49. DArcy*

    OP’s instructions seem perfectly clear to me — in context, “take the lead” would be, “Okay, since you disrespectfully flaked on your previous appointment, we’re going to put the onus on you to coordinate with us and schedule a make-up interview. Assuming you actually want this job at all.”

    The candidate then assumed that OP was “only” an administrative assistant and that she was in a snit over the missed appointment, so she condescendingly replied that she’d work directly with the Boss to schedule her interview. This justifiably pissed off the OP, so she and her male partner agreed that the candidate had pretty much burned the bridges and will now only get a brief interview to make sure they aren’t passing up a candidate who deserves another chance despite screwing up so spectacularly.

    Frankly, taking two days to reply after a last-second cancellation is already a pretty serious professional gaffe, so it’s more like a *third* chance.

    1. Tertia*

      I understand that to you, the instructions clearly said “Reschedule with both of us.” But to me and a number of other posters, the instructions clearly said “Reschedule with him, not me.” And who would think that a secretary would kick secretarial work up to her boss? I don’t get that.

      Anyway: OP, above you said My question is simply whether “flaky” behavior should be called out more deliberately and then, in reference to her second cancellation, said, She won’t be receiving a response from either of us. My $.02 is that professionalism demands that an applicant be told she’s out of the running, regardless of whether or not she behaved professionally. And responding to her second cancellation with, “Thank you, but my partner and I have decided not to pursue your application further. We both wish you the best” would make your point quite clearly, and could in no way be seen as telling her off.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      in context, “take the lead” would be, “Okay, since you disrespectfully flaked on your previous appointment, we’re going to put the onus on you to coordinate with us and schedule a make-up interview. Assuming you actually want this job at all.”

      Yup, this is precisely how I read it.

  50. Ann O'Nemity*

    The candidate screwed up. The OP’s anger is valid.

    That said, I think some direct and transparent communication could have prevented a lot of this. If this OP wasn’t interested after the candidate cancelled, the OP could have just said so instead of asking the candidate to take the lead on rescheduling. If the male partner wasn’t interested, what’s the point of a “courtesy” interview? That’s a waste of everyone’s time.

    1. RB*

      I feel like there is something of a “have your cake and eat it too” thing going on, on the part of the OP. She wants the interviewee to take the lead which is exactly what happened, but if she (OP) was going to be so particular about how the rest of it played out, SHE should have been the one taking the lead, not passing off that aspect and then complaining when it didn’t go the way she had envisioned.

  51. soupmonger*

    Wow – just saw the comment by the OP that she was offered another interview and cancelled again. Fascinating, Captain. Are you at all interested in sending her feedback on why you’re not going to proceed? Because it would be an amazing email to write, if not to receive. This is bizarre – she reached out to you and you were keen enough to offer her a face-to-face, skipping a phone screen. Why does she then go on to balls that up so completely? People are weird.

    1. MsM*

      At this point, I think if it’s not clear to her that she won’t be getting the job, any attempts to explain why will be wasted.

    2. Elizabeth H.*

      Maybe she has some major issues going on at work or in her non-work life, maybe something changed at work to make her less interested in moving on, maybe she had second thoughts about not being super into working at this company after all. Who knows, life is full of mysteries. Just because you were interested enough to apply in the first place, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the most important or attractive thing going on in your life at the moment. Of course this doesn’t exclude being respectful, and I think that in the absence of known mitigating factors, canceling twice on an interview at short notice is really tacky, but any number of things could have happened.

  52. OldJules*

    Sometimes, resume can be misleading. Or she is working in a crappy environment who dumps last minute work on her because she is reliable. Either way, as a person who has faced unconscious biases frequently (overweight, female & minority), it regularly throws me off on how even people who faces biases are unconsciously biased themselves. It’s so cultural that you don’t see yourself doing it. In a meeting when I am the senior analyst, they will look to a junior fresh out of school analyst (white & male) when they have questions that I have lost all annoyance and only look at it with pity. I’ve had people walk past me to ask questions to my male co-worker despite me being the senior analyst.

    I work in a great inclusive company. Nobody consciously decides that they prefer to talk to my white male co-workers. They go to someone they feel ‘comfortable’ with i.e. someone like them (white or male). I hope people who get defensive about the issue (which ever side they are on) realize that this is not a deliberate act of malice like in the yon years. This is the new version of biases which we face. And it’s really not up to the LW to defend her feelings. She has the right to them, however, it’s more productive to move on to the, ‘so what do you do?’ instead of stewing in the feeling. I would not feel guilty at all in cutting this candidate loose outright. If she was an employee, it would be helpful to actually talk to her about it. There are too many factors that can lead to the event.

    BTW OP, I join a women network group which supports women in progressing their career. They have their biases too when we are in a work meeting where my male co-workers are included, especially when they are just starting out in their careers. It’s not malice, just so cultural, we hardly notice we do it.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      It’s not malice, just so cultural, we hardly notice we do it.

      And that’s the problem. If we don’t bring attention to these things, they will continue happening. We all need to do better.

      1. Elizabeth H.*

        I agree completely about the importance of trying to bring things to light even when it’s banal or almost unnoticeably culturally ingrained, but I think that this particular circumstance might not be the best case to do it, because email communications about something kind of charged like a job interview are kind of their whole own thing, and also a lot of reasonable people see a lot of wrong for misunderstanding or confusion in the events as described. I’m not saying that subconscious sexism obviously didn’t play a role in whatever exactly happened, I feel like I really can’t opine for sure either way based on the details we have, but I think that based on the details we have it’s probably not the best case to call out perceived sexism.

  53. Confused by Confusion at the Confusion*

    I’m seeing a lot of people in the comments here insisting that the OP’s original letter (and her contact with the candidate as reported it it) was perfectly clear, and that people who think it was unclear are wrong. Surely the number of people on both sides of the fence indicate that it was most certainly unclear? If that many people are confused by it, I don’t see how one can argue that it definitely was not confusing.

    The most troubling thing that I’ve seen is an implication – or at times outright accusation! – of the confused parties as lying or intentionally seeking out unlikely interpretations. If we are to take letter writers at their word, then I don’t see why that doesn’t apply to fellow commenters talking about their own initial interpretations. Some people seem to be saying that anyone who doesn’t think the initial letter was explicit and obvious are desperately seeking out a non-sexist explanation because they’re unwilling to admit that sexism might have played a part, and lying when they say that their first impression was anything else. I think that that’s rather uncharitable, if I may indulge in some severe understatement.

  54. Q*

    I wonder if maybe she rescheduled with him since you said he was the one who would be out of the office and therefore the one with a conflict to work around? Not a given, of course something to consider.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’d have replied pretty much the same I think… I would think what I’d be saying is “ok… confirming doing what you asked me to…”

      I would think op meant work out with Fergus when he can make it and I’ll see you then.

  55. Akcipitrokulo*

    The number of people on both sides of “it was clear!” and “I’d have read it dfferently” shows that both readings are reasonable first reaction.

    (If I’d been applicant… and I would only have cancelled at short notice for a really good reason… I’d have taken “take the lead on scheduling because Fergus is out of office” as “contact Fergus, see what works with him and then we’ll all get together” – I’d then send email confirming that was what OP wanted me to do “ok, I’ll contact Fergus (as per your request)” … just in case I’d misunderstood that bit.)

    I wish male partner had responded, politely, to say “that time works for me, but will confirm after checked with OP that she’s available – she’s the lead on this.”

    Then if was sexism… which is possible. .. he’s just corrected her and anyone with an ounce of sense would realise their error and be embarrassed… and if it wasn’t, she’ll just take it as a normal check she was expecting.

    (TBH, if there was enough time, I’d have asked Fergus to reschedule so that “OP… the lead in this… can be present.” Same as above… either takes a telling if was wrong or sees it as normal if wasn’t.

    All moot now as missed second interview!

  56. Bob's mom*

    I did not interpret this as a misunderstanding. Red flag #1: candidate cancelled the morning if the interview. Red flag #2: candidate did not respond to LW’s email until three days later. Most professionals have their signature lines in their emails, and I cannot imagine an interested candidate not noticing that LW was had the same title as the colleague. Additionally, I cannot imagine the candidate not realizing that the invitation to interview included LW, so why the candidate excluded her later seems really odd. I don’t know if it was sexism, to me it just sounded like a lousy candidate. And yes, LW’s colleague should have looped her back in.

    1. SomeoneLikeAnon*

      I notice at my work place people gloss over signature blocks ALL THE TIME. Whether a place has regulations about signature blocks or not, I’ve seen people who have lots of junk in their signature block, making it a 5″ chunk of titles, three level deep orgs, six contact methods, two quotes, a picture, address, privacy statement, and reminder to think of the enviroment before printing; which makes my eyes gloss over the whole thing. Not saying OP has that type of sig block, but it could be someonething the person is ignoring due to conditioning at her workplace currently.

      Also, I know lots of folks that use their middle name as their primary name and it drives them bonkers for someone to ignore how they are called in their signature block.

      1. only acting normal*

        Yeah, sig blocks become “invisible” quickly. Especially long ones, but short ones too.

        Aside: My work mandates an email signature format that is 15+ lines long. I’ve quietly declined and kept my 3 line format with all the same info. Luckily they enforce it with all the usual enthusiasm they have for other style “mandates” – i.e. none.

  57. Short&Snarky*

    Is it not also possible that the candidate assumed the male colleague was looping in the OP separately regarding the interview time, as indeed he should have done, and was surprised not to see OP at the interview? I agree that it could be sexism. Equally though is not another explanation possible: both OP and male colleague simply dropped the ball in not clarifying the re-scheduled interview arrangements with OP?

  58. Quinalla*

    I take the OP at her word that it came off as sexist and I’m sorry because I know how frustrating that is, some days I am just so DONE with all the little sexist BS I deal with at work. I think you are under no obligation to respond to her so there is no right or wrong in choosing to not respond. Did she offer any apology or explanation for why she canceled so late and go back to your email days later? If not, sounds like you dodged a bullet with this candidate.

  59. knitcrazybooknut*

    Haven’t read everything, but I would specifically ask the candidate what led her to contact the male candidate directly. Have the male partner schedule the interview, hold a two-person interview with both partners, observe behavior, then have the female partner ask the question. “What was it that led you to reach out to Bob to reschedule with him directly?” There might be a good answer. There might not. But I’d like to know the answer, either way.

  60. Marghe*

    #2 I work in social media advertising and we bought fake followers! It was not for our main accounts (we didn’t want to ruin them) but for examining/experimenting/article writing on consequences. I see how a person learning/testing may do that without much thinking. I wouldn’t do it on your main account though since in some social (not specifically twitter, more Facebook) you ruin your account and is long to recover.
    It is very cheap and knowing that it exists/how it works is part of the job in this field.

  61. Steve*

    With over 500 comments on both sides of “this seems to me like what she meant”, it’s clear that her message was not clear. Her letter to this site was not clear, and her message to the interviewee was very likely equally unclear.

    This makes the argument for jumping to any alternate cause other than a combination of interviewee misunderstanding + OP miscommunication to be weak and unfounded based on all we have to work with here.

    1. DArcy*

      I disagree. The lack of clarity here was due to the OP briefly summarizing the situation in her letter to the site. If you read through the comments (I know, there’s a TON of them), the OP later responded and provided both further details and the original texts of both the e-mails, which do not leave nearly as much leeway as people were speculating.

  62. RUKiddingMe*

    “The fact that this candidate has a background in feminist social action just speaks to how insidious and unconscious this crap can be.”

    It just so highlights how all of us, even rabid, radical, smash the patriarchy feminists like me are socialized into this type of thinking/behavior…even when we know better.

    If I were the OP I think I would email the applicant back with the “I think you misunderstood who was hiring…” language. Emphais on “was.” It might be an “ah ha” moment for the applicant.

  63. Joe*

    I’m very late to the game here (still a couple of months behind on reading AAM), but I am appalled by how many of the comments here seem to be trying to find excuses for the in appropriate behavior of the interviewee. Yes, there are lots of plausible explanations for what the interviewee might have been thinking, but that is part of the insidious nature of sexism and other forms of bigotry – if you’re searching for some other reason, there’s always some other explanation you can concoct.

    OP, this candidate screwed up, and your partner compounded the error. You’re not overreacting.


Comments are closed.